"Rebellions are Built on Hope": 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review'
It’s crazy to think that the premise of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is literally on the opening crawl of the original Star Wars. But Director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy (from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta) expand upon that text and craft a Star Wars story that feels relevant, operatic and monumentally entertaining.
The Rebellion is at its toughest point, Imperial forces reign with an iron fist across the galaxy. But when leaders of the Alliance, led by Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), discover the Empire is planning to unleash their top secret weapon known as the Death Star, they enlist Jyn Erso (an amazing and ferociously sympathetic Felicity Jones) to track down the man responsible for creating the super weapon, her father (Mads Mikkelsen).
Rogue One takes a great moment of Star Wars history, the stealing of the Death Star plans by the Rebellion, into a grand and intimate adventure. What is wonderful about Rogue One is that it takes that small bit of lore and expands upon it by presenting an entirely new side to the familiar Star Wars universe. It feels both fresh and brand new. Edwards along with cinematographer Greg Fraiser (Zero Dark Thirty, Foxcatcher) give the film a wholly original look and one that presents a visually stunning depiction of the Star Wars universe unlike anything else seen in the series before. Taking influences from war films like Apocalypse Now! and The Thin Red Line along with the harsh gritty science fiction world of Alien, Edwards has crafted the most realistic and also the most intense of the Star Wars films. This is sticking to its title root - a war film.
Combining the heist genre (the Rogue One crew sets out to steal the plans to the Death Star) with the structure of an intense war film (the beach assault on the planet Scarif is one of the best third acts of the entire year), Rogue One sets out to defy expectations and within minutes wonderfully subverts them. A proud standalone film that utilizes Star Wars mythology to expand its world, create wonderful new characters (Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO is already a fan favorite) and revisit an untold moment in Star Wars history, Rogue One is one of the most exciting blockbusters of the year and thrilling reminder of amazing popcorn spectacle that has a ton of heart.
Another thing is that great about Edwards’ film is his cast. Jones leads an impressive cast that includes Diego Luna (as the rogue-ish officer Cassian Andor), Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic, the Director of Advanced Weapons Research, is perfectly cast as the villain and his scenes with both Governor Tarkin (brought to life through digital recreation of Peter Cushing) and Darth Vader are great verbal sparring sessions that should make Star Wars fans pretty happy. And while this is the first live action Star Wars film not to be scored by John Williams, Michael Giacchino does an excellent job of bringing in that space opera and grand adventure epic feel to the film with his sweeping score.
Thoroughly entertaining, visually striking and daringly mature and bold, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a triumph that proves that well told Star Wars stories can exist past the episode chapters. And much like Rey in The Force Awakens, Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso amazingly continues that tradition with another great female lead as the protagonist of the story. Armed with an amazing cast, clever surprises and great propulsive storytelling, Rogue One is definitely fully operational.