Lucasfilm Ltd./Walt Disney Studios
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy/Allison Shearmur/Simon Emanuel
Screenplay by Chris Weitz/Tony Gilroy
Story by John Knoll/Gary Whitta
Some of you have heard/read me say this before in private conversations on in a Facebook post somewhere but since this my official review I feel justified in saying it once more and for the last time. Here’s why I love ROGUE ONE so much: I’m a huge fan of Men On A Mission Movies. If you’ve seen “The Dirty Dozen” “Where Eagles Dare” both versions of “Inglorious Basterds” “The Guns of Navarone” “Hell Is For Heroes” “13 Assassins” “The Magnificent Seven” “Force 10 From Navarone” and “The Seven Samurai” then you know what I’m talking about. ROGUE ONE is the STAR WARS version of a Men On A Mission Movie. Alistair MacLean, who wrote “Where Eagles Dare” and “The Guns of Navarone” never wrote a Space Opera but if he had, I can easily imagine that ROGUE ONE might very well have been it.
Remember how in STAR WARS Princess Leia tells Han Solo about the plans for The Death Star that R2-D2 is carrying around inside his rusty innards? (hey, C-3P0 called his innards rusty, not me.) She mentions that a lot of people died for those plans. ROGUE ONE is the story of that group of Rebels who died for those plans. Which is another reason why I love this movie so much. This movie isn’t about noble Jedi Knights, swaggering space pirates full of snark and charm or heroic princesses. This movie is a tribute to the true heroes of The Rebel Alliance, the men and women who live The Rebellion Day In/Day Out and who are the ones that actually get shit done while the Jedi Knights, space pirates and princesses are off having grand and glorious adventures they get medals for.
Rebel Intelligence Agent Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his partner, the reprogrammed Imperial enforcer droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) rescue interstellar criminal Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) from an Imperial work camp. They take her to the Rebel Alliance base on Yavin 4 to confer with Mon Motha (Genevieve O’Reilly) and Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits). They need her help to find her father, Galen Erso (Mad Mikkelsen). He’s a Reed Richards level research scientist pressed into service by Imperial Weapons Designer/Developer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to assist in the creation and construction of The Death Star, a gigantic space station capable of obliterating planets.
Along the way Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO encounter pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) who has in his possession a vital holographic message from Galen Erso he tries to pass onto Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) an extremist disavowed by The Rebel Alliance but has been a life-long friend to the Erso family. In trying to contact Saw, Jyn, Bodhi, Cassian and K-2SO meet up with Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) a blind martial artist and his partner Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). They used to be Guardians of The Whills and while not adept in The Force, they believe in it. Well, at least Chirrut does. His constant reciting of “The Force is with me and I am with The Force” as a mantra tends to get on Baze’s nerves. But this Dirty Half Dozen will form the core of Rogue One, made up of ten other Rebels that Cassian recruits to their team for their final suicide mission saying: “They have done terrible things in the name of The Rebellion. Spies, saboteurs and assassins, all.” But when the time comes for them to throw down, Cassian tells them to “make ten men seem like a hundred” and damn if Rogue One doesn’t deliver.
I have to admit that I had forgotten how many truly great actors have been part of the grand and glorious STAR WARS saga until I started watching all of them to review and ROGUE ONE contains some of the best acting of all the movies. Jimmy Smits never gets enough credit as far as I’m concerned as his character of Bail Organa always seems to be in the background but he’s always in pivotal scenes that mean a lot to the overall STAR WARS saga. I really enjoyed Diego Luna as the wonderfully named Cassian Andor. He’s got a great relationship with K-2SO who could well be a cousin to Marvin The Paranoid Android. But when the rubber meets the road, he proves himself just as much a member of The Rebel Alliance as his human counterparts. And the one thing about his character that really intrigued me was the hints that he is fully aware of his reprogramming but doesn’t mind. Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing appear thanks to their CGI digital likenesses superimposed over living actors Ingvild Delia and Guy Henry. There was some controversy attached to the use of CGI likenesses but far as I’m concerned, if the respective families of those actors didn’t have a problem then why should I?
James Earl Jones gets to do the voice of Darth Vader once again while Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous wear the suit. And while Darth Vader has the least amount of screen time in this STAR WARS movie compared to his appearances in the others, this is the appearance that restores his reputation as a BadAss. After watching The Prequel Trilogy I was delighted to once again see a Darth Vader I could be in awe of and yes, scared of as well.
And if I have to explain to you the sheer cool factor of Donnie Yen in a STAR WARS movie than you most definitely are reading the wrong review. Donnie Yen shares the MVP award for this movie with Alan Tudyk as K-2SO. Yen’s character believes in The Force but is not a Jedi Knight and actually, one of the most interesting things about ROGUE ONE is that the first time I watched the movie in the theater without noticing that there was no Jedi Knights. Which I didn’t mind a bit. ROGUE ONE was intended to be the first in a series of “Star Wars Anthology” movies that would stand alone from the core movies. And I like that concept. It allows for stories to be told outside of the traditional Skywalker Saga. And if they’re all as good as ROGUE ONE, I don’t mind at all. But since then, we’ve seen SOLO suffer financially at the box office, leading Lucasfilm/Disney to rethink the “Star Wars Anthology” concept.
ROGUE ONE is definitely a different type of STAR WARS story. It’s darker, more violent (I do believe it’s got the highest body count of any STAR WARS movie) and characters who aren’t as polished or heroic as we’re used to seeing. I like how everybody has their own reason or agenda for being in this adventure whether willing or unwilling.
I also liked how it’s filmed. It’s not as bright or as polished as other STAR WARS movie which fits in well with the tone and feel of the movie. It’s much more a war movie than any other STAR WARS movie. The final battle sequence both on the beach at Scarif as Rogue One takes on the Imperial garrison and in space as the Rebel Fleet attempts to destroy a force shield surrounding the planet so that they can get the transmission of the Death Star plans may be the best battle sequence in all the STAR WARS movies. And this is the only STAR WARS movies where I really felt the death and sacrifice of the characters as a real thing. Mainly because through their dialog with each other I really felt they truly cared about the dream and cause of The Rebellion.
Until I saw “The Last Jedi” ROGUE ONE was my favorite STAR WARS movie and in fact, now that I’ve watched it twice for this review, I think it may have regained the crown as my favorite. I appreciate the craft, creativity and storytelling guts it took to go off in an entirely new direction with ROGUE ONE. If the STAR WARS movies are going to continue and grow than they have to go into directions other than just rehashing The Skywalker Saga. ROGUE ONE is one of the best if not the best of the STAR WARS movies, plain and simple. If you don’t agree, then we’ll just have to shake hands and part as friends.