Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. Someone else said that but I said it first. For the uninitiated that may be faint praise but for Star Wars freaks it is high praise indeed.
Rogue One exists as a stand-alone film. It’s a bridge that connects Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) with Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Trust me, there won’t be a sequel.
This is a non-spoiler review so I will refrain from revealing specific plot twist as well as decline from speculating on the deal that went down when the producers negotiated with the estate of a deceased thespian for a CGI appearance, in a lengthy supporting role.
What I can reveal is that Rogue One excels at creating a world-class ensemble of outcasts fighting the good fight.
You have Felicity Jones (from the West Midlands in the UK); Diego Luna (born in Mexico City); Alan Tudyk (El Paso native baby) who plays the voice of the coolest robot, K-2SO, to grace a movie screen since at least Hal 9000 (if not C-3PO); Donnie Chen a legendary martial artist and actor from China who plays a blind fledgling Jedi (a character obviously taken from the Japanese legend of Zatoichi the blind swordsman); Wen Jiang also from China as a badass rebel; Ben Mendelsohn (Australian); Forest Whitaker (the only actual Oscar® winner in the cast and native to Longview, Texas) as a kind of extreme rebel whom the other rebels want nothing to do with; Riz Ahmed, who while UK born plays multiple Middle Eastern roles in films as far ranged as the terrorist comedy Four Lions to working class guys like in Nightcrawler to the murder suspect in The Night Of; Mads Mikkelsen the Danish vidunderbarn (wunderkind) as a central figure in thought not appearance; as well as a few previous figures that have popped up in previous editions like Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa and who gets at least two medium close-ups. This truly international rainbow cast propels the SW cosmology into a veritable stable of collaboration without borders.
Make no mistake Rogue One will be embraced by the most extreme factions of the right as well as the left. Every evil empire must be overturned. That’s what Rogue One uses to string you along on what at first is an excursion into seemingly familiar territory only to turn the climax of the film into a tropical island military grade battle that pushes the whole Star Wars zeitgeist to an adult level.
The effects are top notch with the exception of a thin red line where the filmmakers use CGI do animate a specific previous character as they may have looked when the first film came out in 1977.
There’s a moral conundrum that runs throughout the film that determines the characters reaction to different levels of commitment. In this rogue cosmology you can display many variations of rebellion yet the face of oppression is singular. That being said, the whole affair is PG-13 and the robot gets the best lines Rogue One opens throughout the known universe this weekend.
— Michael Bergeron