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MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for violent content, brief strong language and smoking (historical).

Reviewed by: David Simpson

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
War History Thriller Romance Drama
1 hr. 38 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 8, 2013 (limited)
DVD: August 13, 2013
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Lionsgate

war in the Bible

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

Japanese surrender / occupation of Japan by U.S. military

mercy, grace and love in the Bible

General Douglas Macarthur

Emperor Hirohito

General Bonner Fellers

Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers

war crimes



the final judgment of God

Featuring: Tommy Lee JonesGeneral Douglas MacArthur
Matthew Fox … General Bonner Fellers
Kaori Momoi … Mitsuko Kajima
Eriko Hatsune … Aya Shimada
Aaron Jackson … Lt Col. Rogers
Takatarô Kataoka … Emperor
Toshiyuki Nishida … General Kajima
Will Wallace … CIC Commander
Masatô Ibu … Koichi Kido
Isao Natsuyagi … Teizaburo Sekiya
Nic Sampson … Lt. Red
Colin Moy … General Richter
Shôhei Hino … Hideki Tojo
Masayoshi Haneda … Takahashi
Masatoshi Nakamura … Fumimaro Konoe
Gareth Ruck … Master Sergeant
Marina Narita … Japanese Servant Girl
Director: Peter Webber—“Girl with a Pearl Earring,” “Hannibal Rising
Producer: Krasnoff Foster Productions
Fellers Film
See all »
Distributor: Lionsgate

“After the war was won the battle for peace began.”

Japan. 1945. General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) and the US Military swarm into Tokyo at the end of World War II. The nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have forced the unconditional surrender of the Japanese military. Retribution is due, and it’s the Americans who have to pay it out. The question is, does the emperor get blamed for the war, and is he put on trial?

General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) is the man assigned to provide evidence incriminating the emperor personally in major war decisions that led to the deaths of thousands of soldiers and civilians. Fellers, however, has a secret. He has been in love with a Japanese girl for a number of years before the war started, and her return to Japan leads him to question whether he can carry out his mission.

There is very little objectionable content in “Emperor.” We are faced with the remnants of a conflict that claimed the lives of millions of people, both soldiers and civilian. Because of this, we are given characters that are fragments of what they once were because of the distress of what they have just been through. Here is the content broken down:

Violence: For a film based on war there is little violence. The practice of hara-kiri (Japanese honorable suicide) is performed, mostly offscreen. Two different men shoot themselves in the head in attempted suicide. There is a scene where the main character gets beaten up by several men. There are flashbacks of war violence, bomb raids, and the threat of death, although none is shown in any graphic way.

Language: Other than mild curses, the F-word was used on one occasion.

Sex/Nudity: None.

Other content: Characters are frequently seen drinking and/or smoking.

This is a historically based film, where the main struggle for the lead character is whether he can put forward a report condemning the Emperor for war crimes, despite not finding any evidence for or against that fact. His internal issues continue with his love for a Japanese girl, and his desire to see right done within the country to help them get back on their feet. There is very little to object to in “Emperor.” Nothing is graphically shown (apart from the one suicide), there are no poor moral choices. General Fellers makes his choices based on two good character traits, love and loyalty.

As far as the technicalities of this film go, there are weaknesses. It’s beautifully shot, well thought out, the script is written well, the performances are great, but there is something hanging over it. In my mind, there was more depth that could have been found. It touches on overly empathetic, as if there is still an apology being issued by Hollywood for America’s actions after the war.

For anyone not used to picking apart movies on close to an unhealthy scale, don’t pay attention to that. It’s not important. What is important is that this is a safe, and healthy film to watch as a family, as a World War II student, and as someone who is looking into introducing themselves to Japanese culture.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments from young people
Positive—This is a great movie! I loved every minute of it. The story was amazing, with twists and a sweet love story! There is some swearing, with one f bomb and one Lord’s name in vain which I didn’t like. But there was nothing else I would say that was bad. No nudity just some violence in some scenes that might frighten young children.

I would really recommend this movie to everyone that loves history and an overall great movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Meaghan, age 14 (USA)

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