Movie Review: 'Emperor,' -- 2 stars
Directed by Peter Webber
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Matthew Fox
If your high school history experience was anything like that of many Americans, it consisted of a lot of names and dates, strung together in dry textbook paragraphs. When history is taught incorrectly, few subjects are less stimulating.
On the other hand, great history teaching, like great historical filmmaking, brings the past alive in such an immediate way that we are forced to reconsider who we are and where we've come from.
This dichotomy resonates when considering "Emperor," Peter Webber's new film about the fraught moments in post-World War II Japan when the American occupying force led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur (a terrific Tommy Lee Jones) had to decide the fate of Emperor Hirohito.
The film is both a poignant evocation of an important moment in cross-cultural history and as stale as days-old toast. It is a well-intentioned project that drowns in its earnestness, a work of living history that never fully lives and breathes.
This is cut-and-dry cinema -- a languid drama that feels more at home in staid rooms at American headquarters than it does amidst the chaos of Japan in the months following its surrender.
The devastation is just widespread enough, the flashbacks are vividly colored to achieve the precise degree of poignancy and the American uniforms are the right shade of brown. The facts might be right, or at least mostly right, but the film is polished to the point of distraction, which makes for a long and slow night at the movies.