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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 19 March 2017
I eventually got into this film after a struggle to begin with. The fault lies with me though entirely, as I knew nothing other than Hirohito's name before watching this and wondering why he was not held accountable for war crimes. The acting is very, very good once you get into the film and understand better, the reasoning behind different scenes. Maybe a little filmic licence is used, but it nevertheless proves a very good, but slowly intense film of a simple man with a heavyweight burden on his shoulders.
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on 18 May 2011
Similar to Oliver Hischbiegel's Downfall, released a year earlier, The Sun follows Emperor Hirohito during the final days of World War II. While American soldiers invade the land after dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Emperor remains holed up in the bunker of his palace, existing in a kind of daze. He wanders the hallways, followed by his servants who hang on his every word and action, awaiting his instructions. He quietly ponders the situation and attempts to negotiate a peace treaty with his advisors, wondering what effect it will have on his legacy. General Douglas MacArthur calls for him to dine with him, and the two almost share a strange bond while discussing politics, determining the Emperor's fate and smoking cigars.

Director Aleksandr Sokurov, who was responsible for the hypnotic Russian Ark and criminally under-seen Alexandra, adopts a similar style to that of the former. The digital image glides along the steel corridors of the bunker, following Hirohito's every move. The darkness and the grain of the image allowing a more grounded feel to the proceedings. This way, it feels less like a period piece based on real events, and places you more in the time. It's a similar approach to that taken by Michael Mann in the over-rated Public Enemies. Though Michael Mann's almost emotionless biography of John Dillinger used it in a desperate attempt to look cool and edgy (something that Mann seems to do with every new film he does - surprising given the effortless cool of the likes of Heat and Manhunter - anyway...), here Sokurov adopts the style to create a very real atmosphere.

The almost constant soundtrack, too, adds to the atmosphere of the piece. As the Emperor slowly paces the corridors, quietly discusses matter with his board and quietly reflects on his actions, the music and camera-work gave me the overall impression of doom. Not that the film is heading that way, I felt that it more represented the internal struggle of the Emperor, where his fate is seemingly out of his hands, and his country could be facing ruin. Two of the largest cities in the country have been obliterated by the U.S., who are now crossing their borders and invading. Being the Emperor, he is of the belief that he is a God. Is this the legacy of a God? What will his people remember him for?

I can't end the review without mentioning the computer generated sequence that breaks up the film. Dazed and delirious after being taken ill, the Emperor sits open mouthed at the edge of his bed, imagining scores of giant flying fish soaring through the air. The country below them lies in smoky ruin, and the fish begin to drop more bombs, the sounds of the fish's 'engines' groaning terribly. The fish by the way, just to put it into context, represent Hirohito's love for marine biology, which he persists in researching even as the Americans invade. It's a brave, interesting move in the film. It initially jarred with the quiet, controlled drama that unfolds before, but it becomes an interesting and unnerving experimental set-piece.

A cold, tightly-directed biography that cares less about the politics of the time, and more with the humanistic aspect of a powerful ruler in a troubled time, with a mesmerising lead performance by Issei Ogata.
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on 3 April 2011
I was sorry to see the poor reviews for this film so I wanted to offer a more positive response as it would be a shame if people were turned away from The Sun because of Amazon reviews.

Of course a film like this is not for everyone, but really the only thing that would work against someone's appreciation and enjoyment of it is the unfortunate fact we are so conditioned by the sorts of films we see in greater majority that we can't spot the quality of these daring curiosities so easily.

In modern war films we are subjected to many hundreds of shots, fast editing, relentless explosions, battles, sentimental and derivative film music, digital effects etc. The film director's usual claim that it is merely an honest portrayal of war which should be allowed to speak for itself is, I feel, often the way they justify the relentless violence to themselves - violence which they know full well gets bums on seats. The Korean War movie Brotherhood has got ecstatic reviews on here, but aside from the impressive technical achievements (which are ten-a-penny in movies these days) it is a fairly weak film; very proud and sentimental, with no pacing or real drama anywhere in sight.

The Sun was unfortunately compared to the movie Downfall simply to help market it, but that does it no favours if you think that's what you're getting. It is a completely different sort of film, and one which even makes the superb Downfall look like a standard Westernised affair by comparison. Downfall after all had it's healthy dollop of action sequences to accompany the human drama. A film like The Sun is more risky, and interesting and rewarding in a different way. I was relieved that I am still able to enjoy slower paced, subtler films as I was worried that I had been effected by the bitesize, entertainment-on-demand age we live in to the extent I wouldn't be able to sit through a scene that doesn't last longer than a youtube clip.

In fact, I would emphasise the importance of watching a film like this in an environment that gets the best out of it. There is a lot of thought and detail under the surface level simplicity, so if you watch this on your 12-inch laptop, reclining uncomfortably on your bed in the morning you may indeed find the film tedious. But if you create a cinema-like, quiet atmosphere you will really notice the things that give this film its depth, like the background sounds and the lighting for instance. Some shots are exquisitely beautiful - they seem to be set-up to look like paintings - and I'm amazed one reviewer felt it was badly filmed.

Any seemingly negative adjectives I could use to describe this film could equally be seen as positives: slow, simple, uneventful. Why not? A good film needn't be fast, complicated and crammed with action.

It is like a play shot to film, as its main strengths come from dialogues and behaviours between characters in a simple setting. It offers a very realistic and fascinating, if you're not Japanese I suppose, look into their social customs. The scene when the Emperor reunites with his wife is magic. I was watching it with my Japanese friend who was laughing during this scene as she found it so typical of Japanese reserve, even in an emotional moment like that.

But sure, if you bought this thinking you might be getting a Japanese Saving Private Ryan or even Downfall 2, you probably will not like this film!
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on 24 July 2007
Whilst I understand the disappointment of other reviewers on this page, I feel they are doing the film an injustice. It's true that 'Downfall' was a magnificent film which deserves six stars on the Amazon system - but it was at the end of the day, a drama.

What the director has tried to do here is present a slice of 'reality' television - hence, the slow unravelling of events, the lack of a narrative structure (sorry guys, but in real life, the plot lines don't converge neatly after ninety minutes), the inconsistent motivations and the naturalistic flawed characters - especially Hirohito and McArthur.

What does stand out is Issey Miyako's extraordinary portrayal of the slightly autistic emperor, trapped in a life of ritual and expectation, trapped in a Japan that is a fantasy of its own creation, trapped between the past and the future. He steals the show.

Having worked with Japanese people, I'm also conscious of how breathtakingly avant garde this portrayal may still seem to them - a people for whom, like the British, the concept of royalty as being 'different' from normal people may still be irrationally held.
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on 26 September 2012
Wow! I thought Emperor Hirohito had died long ago - but it seems not before shooting this fantastic film. At least that's what it seems like.
This was the third part of a trilogy of films about famous leaders, the first two being Lenin and Hitler. I suppose the supreme accolade must go to the director, Alexander Sokurov, for the imaginative and wholly convincing recreation of the moment of surrender by Hirohito to General MacArthur in 1945, although the extraordinary performance of Issey Ogata as Hirohito is just a hairsbreadth away.
I have read a fair amount over the years about WW II, the defeat of Japan, etc., and although this is obviously a recreation of the events as imagined by Sokurov, it seems hard to believe that we are not witnessing the real thing.
I saw the previous Sokurov film in this trilogy, "Moloch", depicting Hitler, in an altogether surreal atmosphere, which for me was rather over stylized and lacked both content and gravitas. The Sun, however is of a different order altogether. Hirohito did in fact live very much in a world of his own, quite divorced from the teaming and wholly subordinate masses over which he ruled. This is exquisitely captured in the deferential and submissive way that his personal servants behave. Everyone is very respectful of everyone else, yet there is no doubt about the almost celestial reverence with which the emperor is treated. I didn't know that Hirohito himself suffered from the kind of vocal indecision or preparation before speaking that Ogata depicts, but I assume he did, since nobody could invent such an impediment in the way that Ogata performs it. Quite masterful!
I'm not quite sure about the role of MacArthur. I can't quite say why, but somehow I didn't feel I was watching MacArthur. Maybe the physiognomy was wrong, or perhaps the famous pomposity that so characterized MacArthur was missing. Anyhow, he wasn't a patch on Hirohito, although a performance such as Ogata's would leave just about anyone in the shade.
This is a really great work of art, perfectly captured in a washed out, gloomy colour that looks so authentic that it's difficult to believe it isn't the real thing.
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on 30 July 2016
It's OK. There is a jump in the film from just before the surrender to just after the surrender, without actually covering the surrender, the failed coup, and the famous broadcast, that I found disappointing. In addition the portrayal of Emperor Hirohito as somewhat childlike and maybe even childish I suspect is inaccurate and possibly deliberately insulting? This was a person who had the intelligence, the humanity, and sheer guts to do what he could to end the war at what was arguably the first opportunity to do so, and this film appears to me to belittle what was actually a towering achievement. So, yes, the film is just about OK, but definitely nothing more than that. It could, and arguably should, have been a lot, lot better than it actually is.
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on 4 November 2013
The performance of Issey Ogata is outstanding in this portrayal of Hirohito at the end of the war. Unfortunately Robert Dawson is somewhat poor as Douglas McArthur on whom Gregory Peck did a far more convincing job. The Japanese retainers are contrasted with the easy-going GIs for whom Hirohito embodies the qualities of Charlie Chaplin rather than those of a divinity. Hirohito's affection for Hollywood stars, illustrated in his photo-album, is rather touching and reflects that celebrity is universal. To sustain a leading role under such stressful circumstances requires the qualities of a top actor, and Ogata certainly delivers the goods.
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on 18 May 2015
To appreciate this low pace movie you have to have got a bit of personal experience with Japanese character . The time in Japan still have not come for Japanese to acknowledge the time of Theirs. As before they did It for the Emperor now they do it for Almighty $. The last 3 minutes of movie is what is explanatory evidence for Japanese white spots in their Fukushima conscience .
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on 27 February 2014
Bit slow and to be honest a wee bit boring. Not as good as Downfall but there are few movies that cover this period of history.
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on 7 November 2009
Well I have to agree with some of the other reviewers on this page in that this film is no downfall. It tells the story, or more the state of events, of the surrender by emperor hirohito to the US on VJ day (to simplify matters).

But there is little in the way of neat plotting and it is mostly a strange glance into the mind of hirohito himself. To say the lead actor carries the film is no understatement because there is little in the way of concrete plotting that you'd expect from most films, few locations and few supporting actors.

The film also assumes you know the history already so for a country that deals almost exclusively in history lessons about the western front and germany, this can leave you a little confused so perhaps this is more suitable for those who know the japanese story in the war or if you want to watch the film do some research of the basics first.

It also paints the emperor as a sympathetic character, like downfall, but whereas Hitler is also in that film shown to be the raging maniac we're all familiar with, there is little mention of the atrocities attributed to Hirohito and his regime, some of which are truly horrible and of which he was never mad accountable for. Its only mentioned in passing in relation to the attack on pearl harbour, not the mal-treatment of allied soldiers etc

So its incomplete but rather spellbinding. It's held by the lead actors role and little else and is very difficult to watch unless you perservere. There is some reward to those who do but its regrettably no downfall
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