Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn
Director: Gareth Edwards
Running Time: 133 mins
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an American film following a team of rebels on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, sparking the rebellion against the Empire’s dominance of the galaxy.
Are there stories out there in the galaxy beyond the Skywalker saga that are interesting and significant enough to carry an entire film? That’s the question Rogue One had to answer, and I’m glad to say that it’s a massive yes. With a gritty and hardcore story throughout that, by focusing on a smaller part of the Star Wars universe, makes for a hugely entertaining and unique watch, there’s so much to love about this movie, not to mention the utterly dazzling spectacle of it all.
I think the most important thing to know about this film is that it isn’t trying to be exactly the same as the main Star Wars saga. Of course, the imagination and excitement that make the movies so wonderful is still there, but it’s the gritty atmosphere, everything from the tone to the look, that runs right through the middle of this movie that puts a little space between itself and the enormous space operas of the Skywalker saga.
It’s also important to note that Rogue One is a far more hardcore Star Wars movie. Already going into detail by making an entire movie out of A New Hope‘s opening crawl, this film gets right into the nitty-gritty of the Star Wars universe, providing us with more context for the events that unfold in A New Hope. As a result, this is a very nerdy film, and whilst that’s utterly beautiful for hardcore Star Wars fans, it may prove a little too in-depth to interest some of the more casual viewers and general audience members.
Regardless, the film is still a hugely entertaining watch, principally because it’s a visually spectacular experience from start to finish. Gareth Edwards’ directing here is wonderful to behold, giving the film its uniquely gritty vibe, whilst also retaining the elegance that only Star Wars can produce.
Sweeping shots of a wide variety of planet landscapes are beautiful to look at, whilst the visual depiction of the Empire, always presenting their ships as the dominant force in any frame, makes them an even more formidable and threatening enemy than ever before.
It’s not just the establishing shots that are so stunning, but also the action. Without a doubt, Rogue One has some of the best-directed and most exhilarating action in any Star Wars movie, combining that gritty intensity with beautiful, flowing direction that makes every action sequence an utter joy to behold, something that I’ll remember as the best part of the whole movie.
The performances here are also brilliant. With less context and history behind them, the lead actors did an incredible job to bring their characters to life, and make you care just as much about them as anyone else. Felicity Jones’ feisty lead performance is brilliant, as she proves a great action hero whilst also providing an impressive level of emotional depth. Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen are very likable co-stars, and they all make a brilliant on-screen team, something that’s vital to the story, whilst Ben Mendelsohn is a convincing, albeit not incredibly intimidating villain.
There’s so much to love about Rogue One, and it’s a film that will dazzle your eyes from start to finish, fascinate you with its detail and gritty atmosphere, all the while putting a smile on your face as you watch the legendary Rebellion be born.
However, there is but one issue I have with Rogue One, and it comes in the form of the plot, particularly the first act. I’m glad to see we get a grittier Star Wars movie here, but I have to say that, for the first 40 minutes or so, this film really does drag. Its tough intensity, mixed with the by far the nerdiest part of the entire movie, isn’t exactly riveting to watch. It’s a lot of fun in the context of an action movie, but when it comes to good storytelling, it’s not a masterpiece.
Thankfully, this film gets a lot better as it goes along. Avoiding all spoilers, I’ll say that the second act ignites the fuse, which reinvigorated my deeper interest, and the third act goes all out in one of the most spectacular finales I’ve ever seen. Not just a brilliant action climax, but an emotionally intense and incredibly brave ending that was so beautiful to witness it brought a tear to my eye.
Overall, Rogue One is a massively entertaining movie. It may struggle to get up to pace in its first act, but with a story that gets more and more enthralling throughout, brilliant performances, and some utterly beautiful direction, it’s a thoroughly spectacular watch, which also gives us hardcore fans some fascinating context and history into the galaxy far, far away, and that’s why I’m giving Rogue One: A Star Wars Story an 8.4.