Rogue One is a frenetic sometimes sentimental journey. It can best be described simply as an ensemble war flick in the vein of The Dirty Dozen or The Guns of Navarone. After all that, it still recalls much from its Star Wars roots, all seven of them, but may ultimately be considered the best of the eight.
I really enjoyed this movie and since I am a sentimental sucker, I was sucked in from the very beginning. Although the much discussed opening crawl and John Williams score was noticeably missing from the intro to the film, Gareth Edwards does an admirable job creating the feel and scope of Star Wars. The opening shot of a lone starship passing through the rings of a planet and wide shots of the ship passing over a beach immediately transport you to the universe. It is all set up for the backstory of Jyn Erso and her relationship with her father that underscores the entire film.
The acting in this film is excellent, as are the casting choices. Felicity Jones strikes the best balance of wide-eyed hope and defiant rebellion. A great example of this is the way she says, “May the Force be with us” with perfect disobedience. Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor is her perfect foil that drives the story forward. The supporting crew of Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen and Riz Ahmed complete the rag tag band of rebels. On the Empire side, Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Krennic is brilliantly played with just the right amount of ambition and ruthlessness. With all these great performances, the standout was K-2SO, motion capture played by Alan Tudyk. This reprogrammed Imperial droid provides much needed comedic relief in an otherwise tense and serious film and is like a dark, abrupt, and scary C-3PO.
If I had any complaints about this ensemble it is that outside of Jyn, we don’t really get enough time with the characters. The film is in such a pace that we don’t really learn about the back stories of each character aside of short snippets of dialogue, and by the time we reach the final act of the film, the audience is left wishing they knew more. This is also true of the Imperial characters, and if you want more backstory there, then I suggest reading the companion book Catalyst, as it brings much needed insight into Orson Krennic.
Since music is my life, I should mention something about the film score. I have to say that I really felt the time constraints that Michael Giacchino had to deal with. Overall the score is successful in creating the mood of Star Wars and the feel the director wanted. Giacchino did well using sweeping themes in wide shots, and the score during the most tense parts of the film did the job of intensifying the tension without standing out too much. What I really missed was the familiar or even new leitmotif that we are used to in a John Williams scored film.
The payoff is the final third of the film. Without spoiling anything, this is where the fun really begins. The no-holds-barred wild ride of this act will remind you of the great war films of the past and is primarily why most people, myself included, will consider Rogue One to be one of the best Star Wars films to date. And the end of the act is both terrifying and satisfying at the same time.