Film review: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, from ‘Built For Speed’

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a prequel to the original Star Wars film A New Hope and tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance came to acquire the plans to the Death Star.  This is no spoiler as the broad plot of this film was scrawled across the screen in the opening minutes of A New Hope back in 1977.

The story focuses on young female rebel fighter Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) the daughter of the scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) who is press-ganged into designing the Death Star. Jyn, rebel officer Cassion Andor (Diego Luna), two samurai-like fighters Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and droll android K2 (voiced by Alan Tudyk) journey across the galaxy in pursuit of the Death Star blueprints along the way battling most of the imperial army and the man who appears to be the Death Star site manager Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).  As much as a typical Star Wars film, Rogue One plays like a 1960’s war movie with a rag tag band of soldiers going on a mission to destroy an enemy installation.

Like The Force Awakens this film has moved away from the campy fun and gloss of the original trilogy and (thankfully) has completely jettisoned the cgi cartoon horrors of the prequels for a grittier aesthetic with more sweat, dirt, visceral action scenes, wobble cam and even traces of blood.  This gives the film greater verisimilitude but also deprives it of the epic quality of the original trilogy.  Unlike those first three films, there’s nothing revolutionary from a cinematic point of view as we’ve seen just about everything on offer here in one form or another before.

Rogue One provides some tantalising information for Star Wars obsessives, however, including an answer to one of the burning questions from the first film and an intriguing link between Jedi Light Sabres and the Death Star.

Like The Force Awakens this film is often about fan service and to titillate fan boys and girls, the film plucks elements of the first Star Wars film including having characters from the Cantina scene pop up in the bustling streets of desert planet Jedha.

While much of this film’s and The Force Awakens’ appeal is pure nostalgia, it still stands alone as an action adventure. The action set pieces are fluid and exciting and there’s an excellent dog-fight set above the strange but welcome location of a palm tree-infested beach front.  Unfortunately, the film also makes the classic action movie mistake of having pissweak henchman with the Imperial Stormtroopers so inept in combat it’s a wonder they even bother turning up.

Most of the cast deliver the standard earnest, po-faced space opera performances although Diego Luna brings some much needed emotional intensity to the role of conflicted rebel officer Cassion Adnor.  A couple of the players, however, are outrageously hammy.  Ben Mendelsohn struts around in a ludicrous cape and chomps on the scenery like a ravenous shark as Krennic.  Even more ridiculous is Forest Whittaker as Colonel Kurtz-like rebel Saw Gerrera who has hair like Don King and sucks on an oxygen mask like Frank from Blue Velvet.

Rogue One doesn’t represent a big step stylistically from The Force Awakens but peppered with artefacts from the original films and filled with explosive action it will prove a satisfying continuation of the Star Wars saga for long-term fans and an exciting sci-fi adventure for newcomers.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2.

Genre: Science Fiction/ Action.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Gareth Edwards.

Release date: 15th December 2016.

Running time: 134 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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