ReelBob: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’
By Bob Bloom
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the newest movie in that iconic universe looks back on a time before we encountered Luke Skywalker or Han Solo.
This exciting, thrilling and captivating science-fiction adventure takes place during a time when the Rebel Alliance is fractured and the evil Galactic Empire is building a new weapon — the Death Star — to maintain order in the galaxy.
The movie, directed by Gareth Edwards, is reminiscent of those behind-the-lines World War II thrillers, such as “The Dirty Dozen” or “The Guns of Navarone,” in which a small group must defeat overwhelming odds to complete a nearly impossible mission.
“Rogue One” is a blast, filled with action, drama, heart and darkness.
What makes “Rogue One” so refreshing, especially within the “Star Wars” canon, is that it’s totally self-contained — no cliffhanger, setting up a sequel; nothing for which you must wait a couple of years to learn what is next.
The film introduces a host of new characters: Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a rebellious young woman seeking her scientist father, Galen (the wonderful Mads Mikkelsen), coerced by the Empire to help design the Death Star; Capt. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a pilot for the rebellion; Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the Imperial director tasked with building the Death Star; K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), an Imperial drone, reprogrammed to aid Andor; Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a former temple priest and believer in The Force; and Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), a former Imperial pilot who has switched allegiances.
These disparate characters unite to steal the plans for the Death Star — that Jyn’s father purposely built with a flaw, which we know from “Star Wars: A New Hope” — and to reach the Alliance and help its cause.
The movie’s 133 minutes race by, as the characters — and action — hop from planet to planet, battling Stormtroopers — and, at times, each other — every step of the way.
Screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy have created a film in which the outcome can literally decide the fate of the galaxy. This pulse-pounding, adrenaline-rush feature emotionally involves you because the stakes are so high.
The film is visually stimulating, with many new worlds to stir the imagination.
The CGI work — for the most part — is exemplary. However, it also creates some of the film’s most unsettling moments.
Remember Governor Tarkin, played by Peter Cushing in the original “Star Wars.” Cushing, who died in 1994, has been digitally resurrected as Tarkin for “Rogue One” and the results are disturbing and a bit ghoulish (which is apropos because of Cushing’s involvement in Hammer studio’s Frankenstein and Dracula movies).
If Tarkin had been in one scene, it might not have felt as creepy and uncomfortable as it did with his continued appearances throughout the film.
Another character is digitally introduced at the end of the movie — but we will let you discover her for yourself.
Those minor deficiencies are not enough to spoil “Rogue One,” even though they do take you out of the moment for a split second.
“Rogue One” is a wonderful addition to the “Star Wars” series. It is heroic — filled with self-sacrifice and unselfish devotion as ordinary people unite for a righteous cause — fun, suspenseful and entertaining.
The Force is with “Rogue One” because by looking back, it helps carry the “Star Wars” saga forward.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
3½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), science-fiction action and violence