In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A unique perspective on the war and the actions of both sides, that I really enjoyed seeing for the first time.”
“This has nothing to do with punishment, Your Majesty. I need your help. So, let’s see what we can do to get Japan back on its feet.”
As far as movies about the Second World War go, the battles in Europe against the Germans get way more attention than the battles in the Pacific against the Japanese. And even when there are movies about the battle in the Pacific against the Japanese, they seem to be mostly concerned with jungle warfare on tiny, remote islands. And I never thought there was another story to be told, until I watched Emperor. Now, I can’t believe there aren’t more movies about this amazingly interesting subject; How did Japan rebuild after America dropped two atomic bombs?
The Japanese have surrendered, and General Douglas McArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) has been tasked with getting the country back on its feet. To help, he enlists General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox). Fellers has been tracking down Japanese war criminals and now he has to go after the most high profile of all, Japanese Emperor Hirohito (Katataro Kataoka). But the thing is, trying the supreme leader of Japan for war crimes isn’t as cut and dry as it may seem. It might keep the American public happy, but it would also leave Japan open to takeover by the communist Chinese.
With parallel story lines showing us Fellers’ life before and after the war, we see him meet and fall in love with a Japanese girl (Eriko Hatsune as Aya) at college in America, before travelling to be with her in Japan before America’s involvement in the War. His experiences with Aya and her family giving him an insider’s understanding of Japanese pride and honor. An understanding that makes him uniquely qualified for is mission in the post-war segments. One tight lipped person at a time, Fellers slowly makes his way through the Emperor’s insiders, gradually piecing together the facts of how involved Hirohito was in the Japanese war machine.
This is Matthew Fox’s movie. The character General Bonner Fellers is the clear protagonist driving all of the action. But it’s Tommy Lee Jones as General Douglas McArthur who gets to have all the fun. He’s a big, broad, blustery cartoon of a character, full of piss, vinegar and dick swinging zingers. And Jones manages to make him hypocritical, egotistical and awe inspiring all at once.
70 years after the fact, WWII is pretty easily divided into the good guy allies, versus the bad guy axis and Japanese. But Emperor might be the first movie I’ve seen that’s about what happened after the victory celebrations. What happened once they allies realised that winning the war didn’t mean being able to just walk away and get back to their lives. They won through such extreme force, and left Japan so devastated, they had to stick around and do their part in rebuilding. Or maybe, they just didn’t want the commies to get their hands on it. Either way, it was a unique perspective on the war and the actions of both sides, that I really enjoyed seeing for the first time.