Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Cert: 12A Running Time: 133 min
Release Date: 15th December 2016
The opening crawl of A New Hope will never be the same again. What was once a story catch up device for the events of Episode IV has been given a heady dose of CPR as director Gareth Edwards brings to life the faceless rebels who stole the plans to the Death Star all those years ago. Right from the start, it positions itself as a stand-alone film, grittier, more realistic – a rogue addition if you will. At its core is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) a fearless young woman who knows first-hand the sword the Empire can wield against its subjects. An outsider herself, we find her after a brief childhood prologue, detained by stormtroopers and on her way to imperial prison. Without giving anything away she is soon thrown in the path of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a member of the rebellion, kick starting an introduction to the men who will join them on their mission.
They are a rag tag bunch – all perfectly cast. Donnie Yen as blind warrior Chirrut steals every second he’s on screen, ably supported by Wen Jiang as Baze. Riz Ahmed plays Bodhi, an imperial pilot whose secret mission fires up the action and an android called K-2SO charms with the funniest lines and biggest laughs. Voiced by the brilliant Alan Tudyk, his relationship with Cassian is like a parent and truant teenager (the android being the kid) with the script peppered with great quips to ease the dark battle at hand.
In the team’s path is the Imperial Military Director Krennic (played icy cold by Ben Mendelsohn), power-hungry and keen to impress the Emperor. He’s wonderful and his introduction to Lord Vader Will give you chills, shot as it is in shadow and light. Vader, doesn’t disappoint and its his appearance along with other nods to the Star Wars story that Edwards melds together so beautifully. The old and the new blend so seamlessly, a Jedi master could do it no better.
Like Rey in The Force Awakens, Jyn’s another strong galactic heroine, standing up for what she believes in and Felicity Jones does a brilliant job anchoring what is a massive war movie. As you might expect the film is a jaw dropping spectacle (the 3D is well worth the money) and while the final act is battle driven, Edwards thrills bringing the fight to blue skies and palm trees, an approach that works beautifully. CGI is used sparingly and concentrated on certain key scenes and the film-making team are to be commended for aiming so high and pulling it off – confirming the level of dedication, love and ambition that went into making it.
To Star Wars, Rogue One is like a cool older cousin, visiting from another star system. It’s fresh and exciting but also vaguely familiar sharing as it does the same DNA.