“Code Name: Emperor” is a spy thriller that goes beyond the usual fast-paced action that we have come to expect from such a genre and pertains more to the real world that runs on information as much as money, if not more. Espionage and surveillance are perhaps the only professions in which a fictional character has gained more popularity than any real person. Yes, it is James Bond. And just like the Bond films, “Code Name: Emperor” too deals with delicate intelligence, but while James Bond isn’t afraid to make things physical and is invulnerable to emotions, in this film, our protagonist, Juan, likes to keep things as low as possible as well as deals with conflicted morality, which should be the case for real.
What Happens In The ‘Code Name: Emperor’ Film?
Wendy is attacked by a group of men on her way home, who try to abduct her, but she is saved by a civilian, Alex. She takes him to her boss’s place and tends to his wounds. While inside the house, Alex sets up secret cameras at strategic spots without Wendy’s notice. Alex, who is actually Juan, is a secret agent who is looking into Wendy’s boss’s whereabouts in relation to smuggling. After much research, Juan, along with his teammates, finds out that Wendy’s boss was involved with a notorious guy, Gunter Schull, and was planning to smuggle Cobalt-60, a metal used in making bombs, throughout Europe. They are eventually able to prevent its smuggling. However, when Wendy, who had started to develop feelings for Juan due to multiple meetings, found one of the hidden cameras, she decided to leave Juan. Juan had also started to develop feelings for her and tells her that she cannot leave until he can be assured that she is out of danger. Once they capture Gunter, Juan brings Wendy to his home until she finds a new place for herself.
On the other hand, Juan has also been keeping an eye on Congressman Ángel Gónzalez as ordered by his senior Galan, intending to get some “dirt” against him that Juan could use as leverage against him. He goes to the extent of using a girl named Marta (the daughter of a famous actor, of whom he possesses compromising footage) as bait to lure Gónzalez into a trap. However, this too doesn’t work, and it is clear that Gónzalez isn’t involved in anything wrong. Watching Juan try to put words in Gónzalez’s mouth all in the name of serving the government enrages Marta. She reminds Juan of how emotionless he has become. She even steals Juan’s laptop that has all the footage of her with Gonzales together in bed and destroys it. Juan does have a backup, but Marta’s words have affected him. He reassures Galan that Gónzalez is clean without any intention of giving him the footage. But when he finds out that Wendy has been taken into custody by his teammates, whom Galan had actually sent to track him, he gives Galan the footage, but only in return for Wendy’s release.
Meanwhile, Juan contacts his friend and journalist Charo Montes and gives her an encrypted hard drive containing all the information about the Emperor, which is the codename under which he is made to defend government officials and their powerful friends by means of activities that are illegal and carried out under the radar. He then meets Wendy and gives her money and a passport to leave the country. Once she leaves, Juan sends Charo the drive’s password, thereby giving her access to all the illegal missions carried out by the government. He then returns home, packs his bag, and leaves the city.
The one thing that hangs by a thread in Juan’s experiences as a spy or a detective is his morality. He has to lie to the person he loves; he has to defend the image of a renowned sports person who beat his girlfriend; and he has to make a politician confess to crimes he hasn’t committed, among others. None of this he likes to do, but as he tells Wendy, “someone has to do it.” It is perhaps one of those few times when we see an agent reluctant to perform his duties. However, this is not to say that he is bad at what he does. In fact, he is one of the best, which means that he has complete control over his emotions. But when Juan meets Wendy, his heart gets the better of his mind. And here is something unusual and good that “Code Name: Emperor” has shown. It is how Juan manages to prevent Wendy from getting into any kind of trouble at all. This is unlike the usual spy films, where a loved one is often used as leverage to reveal the spy protagonist’s weakness. Juan is able to keep Wendy away from danger and is ultimately able to send her away.
As much as “Code Name: Emperor” shows how information is key in today’s world, it also shows the functioning of a detective’s mind, which makes sure that he is true to his cause, overriding his instincts. Juan’s agency, after being unable to find “dirt” on Ángel Gónzalez, decides to frame him. And Juan is tasked with it. Again, he is sent to prevent a scandal involving a famous footballer who has hit his girlfriend. Juan had to make sure that the girl didn’t go to the police, which would affect Fernando’s future on his team. Finally, Juan has to lie to Wendy, the woman he loves, so that he can recover information from her boss’s house. And he surely wouldn’t have opened up to Wendy had she not found a hidden camera. When Marta reminds him of the kind of impassive person he has become, it may have made him realize that the only way for him to keep loving Wendy is to send her away. The film, in this way, nicely balances the world of surveillance and intelligence as well as a man’s morality.
The film’s juggling between missions also shows how Juan’s morality is also being juggled. Each mission reveals Juan’s discontentment with his job, and the fact that he meets Wendy during a mission is what makes it noteworthy. It is then that Juan realizes how he never had a life due to the nature of his job. And the film again does a good job of maintaining the relationship at a subtle level without exploring it too much. It only proves how for Juan, it is perhaps his first love or one in a very long time. He feels the love only when he has Wendy around him but otherwise is completely focused on his work. The way in which “Code Name: Emperor” ends, i.e., Juan packing his bags and leaving, makes us wonder if he is going to Wendy in the Philippines, where she said she would be.
‘Code Name: Emperor’ Ending Explained – Is Juan’s Mission Accomplished?
There’s more to Juan’s mission as a person than as a spy. Although his mission to frame Angel Gónzalez wasn’t successful, it is what led him to give up this profession, which, for him, is a good thing. He found love and is headed in its direction. However, we must not forget that “somebody has to do it.” So we cannot be overcome with emotion knowing that the world today does run on intelligence and surveillance and requires people like Juan to maintain the balance of power. The ending is perhaps apt, although it suffers from abruptness. There is no knowing what will happen to Juan. His life is uncertain, much more than we realize. And with Juan being a spy, “Code Name: Emperor” tells us that it is not appropriate to reveal where he is headed.
“Code Name: Emperor” is a 2022 Spanish spy thriller film streaming on Netflix with subtitles.