The force is strong in Gareth Edwards’ full on, all-action epic, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which stands as one of the most entertaining films of the year.
This standalone chapter of the Star Wars saga exists outside of the regular continuity, and chronicles the dangerous and desperate mission of a few brave members of the Rebel Alliance to steal the plans to the Empire’s world ending superweapon, The Death Star, and provide the strategic advantage they need to defeat the Empire once and for all.
Edwards throws his audience head first into his film, which utilises an eclectic ensemble cast to tell this very expansive story. Rogue One is lead by Felicity Jones as Jyn Eyrso, a ragtag orphan turned thief and criminal who is brought into the Rebel Alliance to help steal the Death Star plans. As Jyn, Jones exerts a sense of unwavering confidence, and a necessity to think about more than just the rebellion, such as the bigger consequences of what this weapon will do. Jyn is also the film’s most empathetic character, and her heroism shines through in several key moments where the greater good for all of the galaxy must be protected ahead of just the Alliance’s own plans for victory.
Matching Jones’ brilliant on screen presence is Diego Luna as Captain Cassian Andor, a Rebel Intelligence officer who is best described as a war horse, and one of the Rebel Alliance’s best and brightest. Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen bring camaraderie, comedy and some breathtaking martial arts prowess as spiritual guardian Chirrut Îmwe, and his freelance assassin comrade Baze Malbus respectively. While the concept of the force has been explored in previous Star Wars adaptations, Yen addresses it in a new light as Îmwe, highlighting its religious and spiritual qualities, which delve into Rogue One’s deeper themes of faith and hope. Riz Ahmed is a fish out of water as Bodhi Rook, a deserter from the Empire and one hell of a pilot, who jumps at the chance to do the right thing. And finally, Alan Tudyk steals the movie as Cassaian’s droid K-2SO, a re-programmed Imperial droid who is all too literal and brings plenty of hilarity and light-hearted moments to the screen.
Longtime fans of Lucas’ original Star Wars films will fall in love with Edwards’ work on Rogue One, as he has based his film within the same look and environment that Lucas used on A New Hope. The director draws upon the ‘used-future’ aesthetic with everything being grimy and gritty, and he not only showcases a much broader, and shall I say divided and derisive, Rebel Alliance, but indeed a larger Star Wars canvas as well. The attention to detail in location, costuming, weaponry and vehicle design leads to a rich visual experience that fans will lap up. And although I can’t say much without revealing any spoilers, the CGI is incredible!
Edwards also takes on the tone of a full-on war film, and presents incredibly realised front line battle scenes as the Rebel Alliance storm the beaches to strike a decisive blow to the Empire. There are no Jedi here, just brave men and women who are ready to sacrifice everything for a cause far greater than themselves, and Edwards captures these tooth-and-nail moments wonderfully. We’ve never before seen this level of intensity of warfare in the Star Wars universe, and as an audience member you simply can’t help but get caught up in it.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a monumental achievement for its director, cast and crew. Both longtime fans and new viewers will find themselves mesmerised by its incredible visuals and tightly packed narrative, as it chronicles one of the most important events of the Star Wars saga.
Image: Walt Disney Pictures