The Star Wars film series continues with the first installment of Star Wars Anthology, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This newest lens-flaring, explosion-filled, action-packed movie in the franchise enters the scene as a quasi-stand-alone. The film details events immediately prior to A New Hope, the very first film in the series from 1977, and segues into the timeline seamlessly. However, the film brings an entire set, of shiny brand new characters, along with some CGI ones, to the screen. Nonetheless, this reviewer was giddy upon hearing that the simple “many Bothans died to bring us this information” line from Mon Mothma in A New Hope would earn its own full-length feature to answer their begging question.
The film centers on Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, who enters the fray as a flash in the pan heroine alongside Rebel Alliance intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). The daughter of the Death Star’s engineer Galen Erso, Jyn is headstrong, outspoken, and handy with a blaster with the goals of finding her father and escaping the growing conflict between the Empire and the rebels. The Star Wars franchise unsurprisingly returned to a strong female lead for their newest installment after the success of Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to whom Jyn draws parallels.
Although both are solitary, roguish characters, in all honesty, Jyn is a much stronger character. It was refreshing to see a protagonist with such a clear-cut yet simultaneously complex design; her motivations and decision-making were fresh, her cause was easy to rally behind, and she didn’t have any movie gimmicks to her. She didn’t suddenly become a Force user or someone’s long lost sister, cousin, or mother. From her backstory, to her attitude, to her fighting abilities, she just made sense!
The movie’s other main crew included some of my favorite supporting characters in the Star Wars franchise, from Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus, to the sassy K-2SO. The supporting characters made the film incredibly impactful as I rapidly became attached to each and every one of them. Of all of the supporting characters introduced in the film, the most outstanding to me was the defected pilot Bodhi Rook, played by Riz Ahmed. From Bodhi’s first scene I was hooked. Ahmed’s impassioned portrayal of such a small part was absolutely phenomenal. Upon exiting the theatre, I still could not believe that the most impressive and tremendous acting came from a character who had fewer than 10 minutes of screen time. Ahmed, if you’re reading this (a girl can dream), know that your acting in Rogue One blew me away. Fantastic job, sir, in breathing such life and meaning into such a small role.
Rogue One was, simply put, compelling. With a plot I, as an avid Star Wars fan, was already invested in, it was guaranteed to be superb. Rogue One earned its place among my favorite movies of 2016 for many reasons, but most of all for the gut-wrenching honesty and fast pace of the film. The movie was a breath of fresh air in a market saturated with space-centered action films. Rogue One single-handedly reinvigorated my faith in the film industry; it didn’t lean on clichés or tropes to move through a captivating storyline as many others do.
I finally got a taste of a sci-fi action film that brushed hands with bitter reality and I don’t really want to go back. The ending of the film, which I won’t spoil, is the reason I found this movie so unbelievably good. It had just enough realism and heartstrings pulling, and it was so utterly genuine that it brought the film above just being a good Star Wars movie. The movie went above and beyond my expectations with ridiculously spectacular cinematography, clever dialogue, and surprisingly heart-warming characters. Although its run is winding down, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story earns a glowing recommendation from the reviewer.