This is the Star Wars story you never knew. It’s gritty and starkly devoid of the Force as we know it, the characters far more diverse and flawed than those of the other films. Like the Rebellion it centers around, the film is imperfect, but it ultimately inspires an undying hope for that special galaxy far, far away.
Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is rescued from an Imperial prison by Rebel fighter Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) after the Rebel Alliance becomes interested in rescuing her father Galen from the Empire (Mads Mikkelsen) and learning about the Death Star, which Galen was integral in designing. Jyn and Cassian, along with K2-SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid, make contact with Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), an Erso family friend, on the planet Jedha and learn of a small but critical weakness in the Death Star from a message Galen recorded for Jyn. While on Jedha Jyn, Cassian, and K2 are joined by blind Force monk Chirrut Imwe (Donny Yen), Imwe’s mercenary companion Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), and Imperial defector Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed). The rest of the film depicts the Rebels’ attempt, led by Jyn, Cassian, and the others, to steal the Death Star plans from an Imperial base on the planet Scarif headed by Imperial Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).
As was the case with 2015’s The Force Awakens, the practical effects in Rogue One were stellar and, aside from the distracting and lifeless motion-capture techniques employed to recreate the faces of Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher, the computer-generated effects were stunning as well. The cast was perfect and all gave excellent performances, the strongest of which were delivered by Felicity Jones and Ben Mendelsohn.
The appearances of former Republic Senators Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, as well as Rebel pilots from A New Hope and numerous nods to the Star Wars: Rebels animated TV show allow the film to effortlessly bridge the gap between episodes three and four of the saga. Furthermore, the film brilliantly depicts Galen Erso as being solely responsible for the fatal exhaust port flaw in the Death Star that the Rebels exploit in episode four. This adds yet another layer of cruelty to the Empire’s reign, but also illustrates the power of people to do what they feel is right despite great risk.
The biggest downside of Rogue One is the musical score. Unlike the film itself, the soundtrack is mostly forgettable and more than a little generic. However, given that composer Michael Giacchino only had four weeks to write the score, the final product certainly didn’t detract from the movie. Though the killing-off of every major character was a somewhat predictable end to the story, this approach didn’t feel forced or overly convenient. Each character met their end on their own terms: K2-SO sacrificed himself for the good of the mission, Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus died loyal to their teachings and each other, Bodhi Rook was killed while trying to finish the mission, and Jyn and Cassian died in each other’s arms after fighting together for the hope they believed in.
Rogue One demonstrated the viability of Star Wars tales outside the Skywalker dynasty and added a brand-new aspect to the Rebellion’s fight against the Empire. Overall, the film is a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe, easily one of the best films in the franchise and a must-see for all Star Wars fans.