Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Photo: Jonathan Olley. © 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Does Gareth Edwards latest addition to the Star Wars Anthology deliver?

As 2016 draws to a close, one of the most highly anticipated films of the year – ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY – finally heads to UK cinema screens this week.

Set in between Episodes III and IV of the Star Wars saga, ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY follows the adventures of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a Rebellion soldier and criminal who sets her out on a mission to steal the plans for the Galactic Empire’s new superweapon, the Death Star. With help from the Rebels, a master swordsman and non-allied forces, Jyn and the group of unlikely heroes experience their biggest challenge yet and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

As the first standalone film in the Star Wars Anthology (set before the events of the original 1977 STAR WARS film), ROGUE ONE is understandably different from the films that came before. Dark, gritty and incredibly tense, director Gareth Edwards ramps up the stress-levels to deliver an emotional, exciting and incredibly satisfying film that every Star Wars fan was hoping for. The story is dark, the visuals are first-rate and there are plenty of series callbacks to please even the most loyal devotees. Moreover, despite being a prequel telling a story to which everyone already knows the ending, the film also boasts enough twists and turns, as well as a few surprises, to keep you hooked throughout.

As expected, the visual effects in ROGUE ONE are simply stunning. Edwards has experience of crafting eye-popping blockbusters thanks to his unique work on GODZILLA and ROGUE ONE is no exception. There some incredible planetary and interstellar action sequences and Greig Fraser’s underlit, dreamy frames are appropriately eye-popping. In fact, ROGUE ONE’s visuals make it arguably the prettiest film in the Star Wars saga since EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, which is no mean feat considering how visually striking EMPIRE is.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Stormtroopers. Photo: Jonathan Olley .© 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Then, of course, there is the cast. Felicity Jones brings impressive intensity as Jyn, the delightful female heroine who proves that the ladies are every bit as tough as the men, if not more so. Elsewhere, Diego Luna impresses as Cassian Andor, as does Riz Ahmed as defected Imperial solider Bodhi Rook.

But it is Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe and Alan Tudyk as tinhead robot K-2SO who truly steal the movie, with K-2SO in particular delivering most of the comedy with his wisecracks and cynical sarcasm.

The only real criticism for the film is the plotting, which is a little slow to get going. A slightly uneven middle section also throws off the momentum a little bit but when it does get going again, it turns into a full-on action pic with a ballsy third act that doesn’t disappoint.

Despite initial reports of production troubles and extensive reshoots, ROGUE ONE thankfully stacks up quality-wise. The film is the first of three planned spin-off films set in the Star Wars universe, the next to be the as-yet untitled story about a young Han Solo, pencilled in for 2018. And while the characters from the stand-alone films will not crossover to the main episodes, the film does a decent job in setting up the epic saga to follow in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE.

Whether you’re a die-hard STAR WARS fan or just an action fan, you’re sure to enjoy – ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY. An excellent chapter in the STAR WARS universe, which, more importantly, feels like a Star Wars film should feel.

4 out of 5 stars

Experience ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY in IMAX and UK cinemas from 15 December 2016.