Film Review: Emperor starring Tommie Lee Jones – I wish I could begin with how much I enjoyed this film but I can’t

Review By: Mut Asheru

I wish I could begin with how much I enjoyed this film but I can’t.  This film doesn’t offer anything interesting outside of the brief moments where Tommy Lee Jones appears on-screen as General MacArthur.  And there weren’t enough of those to salvage this film.

General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) arrives on a plane filled with American soldiers among who is Japan culture lover General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox). We learn early on that Washington wants revenge for Pearl Harbor. MacArthur would rather help rebuild Japan but doesn’t want jeopardize his political aspirations so he assigns the task of finding pardonable proof to General Bonners in absurd 10 day deadline.


A well-intentioned retelling of the American pardoning of Japan’s Emperor Hirahito for World War II war crimes; it fails to hit an emotional mark.  I couldn’t find myself caring about any of the characters or their outcome. It wasn’t the fault of the actors. The script failed to bring to life the emotion and plot points necessary to bring this adaptation to life. 

Through flashback and voice-over we learn that Fellers fell in love with Japanese exchange student Aya (Eriko Hatsune) who he inevitably follows back to Japan and learns about their culture which is built on a two thousand year old set of honorific values that Americans just don’t understand; a point which is verbally reiterated over and over again.  The love story fails to deliver any emotional impact as well.



No rating, Run time: 106 minutes

Director: Peter Webber

Cast: Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones, Eriko Hatsune, Toshiyuki Nishida, Masayoshi Haneda, Colin Moy, Isao Natsuyagi, Takataro Kataoka

Screenwriters: David Klass, Vera Blasi

Producers: Yoko Narahashi, Gary Foster, Eugene Nomura, Russ Krasnoff

Director of photography: Stuart Dryburgh

Production designer: Grant Major

Score: Alex Heffes

Costume designer: Ngila Dickson

Editor: Chris Plummer

Visual effects supervisor: Julian Dimsey

Production companies: Fellers Film, Krasnoff/Foster Entertainment


Similar Stories: