Rogue One – Film Review by Emily Elphinstone
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Chris Weitz (screenplay), Tony Gilroy (screenplay)
Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk
The notion of a Star Wars spin off that exists with only glimpses of the instantly recognisable characters seems a daunting prospect; which was not allayed by the levels of secrecy surrounding the film in the run up to its release, and the talk of extensive reshoots. These doubts, however, can finally be laid to rest; as LucasFilm deliver another rollercoaster ride that may not surpass The Force Awakens, but which nonetheless remains in the same race.
Building toward the action of the 1977 original Star Wars film A New Hope, Rogue One apparently concludes ten minutes before the eponymous story begins. This introduces us to previously unheard of heroine Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who is drawn into the rebellion by Rebel Alliance, as both they and she hope to discover news of her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen): A scientist working for the Empire who may be sympathetic to their cause. This leads to a daring mission into the heart of the Empire, accompanied by rebel captain Cassian Andor (the excellent Diego Luna), pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and warriors Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen).
At its best, Rogue One will provide the childlike joy of watching a Star Wars film for the first time (ignoring the existence of the prequels of course.) It’s a real thrill ride of daring aerial displays, and guerrilla missions into enemy territory; accompanied fantastically by a rousing score. There is a great chemistry between the central team, which provides a real ‘band of brothers’ feel of contrasting characters uniting behind a common cause. The blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe provides hints at ‘the force’ that is to come, and insight into the characters’ emotional conflicts without the need for lengthy dialogue; and K-2SO (the deadpan Alan Tudyk) brings some much needed comic relief to even the most extreme situations. The audience also gains an insight into a more human side of the Empire’s villainy, as Empire Commander Orson Krennic (a scene stealing Ben Mendelsohn) struggles between attempts to crush his enemies, and a meek wish to please his superiors.
However, this brilliance is bookended by scenes which appear to distrust the audience’s ability to follow the action, in what is now a fantastically familiar universe. The heavy handed exposition, tediously listing each new location and its relevance; leans dangerously toward geography lesson, rather than revelling in the joy of discovering new worlds. And the conclusion takes too long to neatly tie up loose ends, spelling out developments rather than leaving the viewer wanting more following neat allusions so perfectly placed earlier in the film. At its heart, this remains very much the adventure story it aims to be. The team behind it just need to place more faith in the audience, and trust we’ll go along for the ride.