Up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones has recently found a comfortable niche in historical dramas. He looks to continue this trend later this year in the upcoming Emperor, a historical drama directed by Peter Webber (Hannibal Rising).
Emperor's main hook is that Jones will be stepping into the formidable shoes of General Douglas MacArthur, a historical figure so out-sized that future generations might yet mistake him for fictional. In the movie's recently released trailer, general audiences can finally get a look at Jones's performance and the lush film surrounding him.
Taking place during the tenuous days after the close of World War II, Emperor follows General MacArthur and his military intelligence head, General Bonner Fellers (Matthews Fox) as they prepare for the American occupation of Japan. They are faced with a fateful choice: Will they place Emperor Hirohito (Takatarô Kataoka) on trial for Japanese atrocities committed during the war? Charged with investigating the Emperor's culpability, Fellers finds himself distracted by memories of a romance with a Japanese exchange student (Eriko Hatsune) and the horrific devastation left by the U.S. bombing campaign.
Emperor's trailer confirms that the film is setting itself up as a prestige picture with future awards in mind. Showing off some great photography and Tommy Lee Jones in (rather appropriate) full swagger, the preview presents Emperor as one part military mystery a la A Few Good Men to two parts rumination on the lasting horrors of war. One must admit that even though Jones doesn't look quite enough like MacArthur to pass muster, the actor definitely nails the Supreme Commander's imperious stance and mannerisms.
However, early reviews of the film have been fairly tepid. When the movie was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of last year, The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "... the handsome production is honorably intentioned but stodgy, padded out with a wan romantic subplot that struggles to generate emotional heat." Jones has been singled out for the layered braggadocio of his performance, but all else is described as merely serviceable.
Note that none of the TIFF reviews describe Emperor as bad, per se – merely weaker overall when compared to the power and joy that Jones brings to his role as MacArthur. We at Screen Rant will definitely weigh in on the movie and its merits when it opens wide in March.
Emperor will stride into theaters on March 8, 2013.