Film review: Rogue One triumphantly ushers in a new era of Star Wars stories

Rogue One is subtitled “A Star Wars Story”, but it is a Star Wars movie unlike we have seen before. Dirtier, grittier, muddier, wetter.

Left to right, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). Jonathan Olley. All Rights Reserved
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Director: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed

Four stars

Rogue One is subtitled "A Star Wars Story", but it is a Star Wars movie unlike we have seen before. Dirtier, grittier, muddier, wetter… George Lucas's space saga is now seen from the trenches in this exhilarating spin-off set just before the beginning of Episode IV: A New Hope the original 1977 Star Wars film, as the Empire plans to crush a fragile rebellion.

Leading the story is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who is rescued by the Rebel Alliance with a critical mission in mind: to contact comeone with whom she has a personal connection, who has information about the Empire’s devastating new weapon – a “Death Star” capable of destroying planets.

Paired with rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Jyn is joined by blind soldier and Force-believer Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and blaster-wielding Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) as they jet into hyperspace in search of the informant.

With captions detailing a whole star-system of planets new to the Star Wars universe – one of the many touches director Gareth Edwards adds to the saga – the first half of the film takes a while to settle down.

The script by Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz retains the humour that made the Star Wars series so enjoyable, largely provided by K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid (brilliantly played by Alan Tudyk). This aside, Edwards has a field day with nods and references to Episode IV.

Fans will already know about the return of Darth Vader, thanks to the trailer, but there are plenty of other surprises in store.

One other surprise return (aided by CGI) does not quite work but is a rare misstep in an otherwise a beautifully designed work. The costumes, the production design, props, hardware – they all feel like classic Star Wars, lovingly crafted.

But, just as Edwards always promised, Rogue One is a war film first and foremost. The immersive battle scenes, even more explosive in 3D, are quite simply spellbinding.

Yet this isn't just a film about firepower. Rogue One has some of the best performances seen in a Star Wars movie. Ben Mendelsohn is magnificent as Orson Krennic, the Imperial leader responsible for the Death Star. Martial arts maestro Yen is also superb as Chirrut, performing his own stunts as he twirls his staff Zatoichi-style.

But perhaps Jones deserves the highest praise, as she provided the film’s emotional core.

By the finale, you will be left feeling blown away.