Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Wen Jiang, Alan Tudyk
Star Wars: Rogue One is a Star Wars movie that sits comfortably amongst the pantheon, but yet at the same time it is not a Star Wars movie at all.
In spite of all that, it is a solid piece of cinema, full of action for every minute of its two hour and a bit runtime.
Rogue One is told from the perspective of Jyn Erso (Jones), a woman would rather not be part of the war between the nascent Rebel Alliance and the dominant and terrifying Galactic Empire, if she could help it. Circumstances beyond her control eventually transpires to convince her to throw her lot in with the Alliance, assembling a rag-tag dirty half-a-dozen, that consists of conscientious Rebel captain Cassian Andor (Luna), and his sidekick, a re-programmed Imperial droid K2-S0 (Tudyk), and they are later joined by a warrior mystic Chirrut Imwe (Yen) and his bodyguard (Jiang), along with an Imperial defector Bodhi Rook (Ahmed), whose escape from the Empire sets decisive events in motion. Together they form the eponymous team sent forward in a desperate mission that could decide the outcome of the war, and the very fate of galaxy itself.
The choice of Jyn Erso as protagonist, is a fresh and interesting one, from a strictly Star Wars context. Your usual heroes in a Star Wars story is usually someone who is already a Jedi, or about to become one. It is not often the humble ordinary grunt that gets to be the centre stage. In fact, Rogue One could be said to be a paean for the universe’s poor bloody infantry- to paraphrase Heinlein, the doughboy and the mudfoot who go into the trenches and kill the enemy, to put himself between one’s love and one’s desolation. The film’s narrative is presented in a straight-forward, easy to follow manner, akin to a blaster wielded by any infantryman.
The cinematic style is markedly different from the usual template. We’ll start with the most noticeable and the most talked about- the lack of opening crawl that is iconic and unique (and copyrighted). Notably absent are the Kurosawa-style wipes into the next scene. The old man can get some rest, as in this film, its straight up Eisenstein style montage all the way, each scene setting up for another fight. The score is impressive, emulating the scope of John Williams (a hard shoe to fill), but using entirely all-new tracks that don’t borrow from the main franchise. The performances aren’t wasted, especially Donnie Yen, who puts impressive martial arts movie skills to good use- a relief given that the appearance of Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian in The Force Awakens was rather wasted.
Rogue One is a great war film, with added Star Wars flavour. It stands very well on its own, and adds real flavour into the Star Wars narrative. The last few minutes of the film is worth the admission fee alone.