Revolutionary Realism, A Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Lasers, spaceships and unknown powers; “Rogue One” tells a familiar tale with nuance rarely seen in blockbuster films.


I still remember the first time I saw “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” I was an impressionable middle schooler, steeped in the comfort of happy endings. I fell in love with the heroic characters, only to be shaken by their eventual deaths. I cried then, and I cried again when I watched it on the big screen last week. 


In “Rogue One,” the premise is bleaker than that of any other Star Wars film: the Empire is developing their planet-killer, and even without it they far outmatch any resistance. The fledgeling Rebellion struggles with their identity, be it working inside or outside the ‘political’  system of the galaxy. There are people fighting as if they have nothing to lose, others that believe using diplomacy is the only path to survival. The essential question of the movie is: what do you do when you are up against the evil of the Empire?


The film’s cinematography is beautiful, magnificently conveying large-scale battles. While other films have done this in the past, it’s sometimes accompanied by writing that lacks depth. However, in “Rogue One,” the depth is channeled through brilliant performances all around, most notably from Diego Luna who plays Cassion Andor, a young leader in the rebellion willing to make the difficult choices. Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, a child of rebels finding her own path, and Donnie Yen plays Chirrut Imwe, a blind Jedi who spiritually leads his friends. 


The filmmakers do not shy away from highlighting the messiness of revolution, while simultaneously showing its strength and importance. As the lead of the film, Jones’ character exemplifies this. Her father is forced to work for the empire, developing their weapons of mass destruction, while her mother dies trying to stop the Empire. She initially feels apathetic to the cause that has taken so much from her, before joining to continue her parents’ legacy. We learn of the bravery she and her father share, with her father creating a hidden weakness in the weapon he was forced to create, and she traversing the galaxy in search of that weakness before his revenge against the empire is revealed.


The characters succeed in their mission, but the film shows that going up against all odds can pay its toll. I cried both times that I watched “Rogue One” because of the truth that it tells, even in the context of faraway galaxies.