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dir Gareth Edwards
scr Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
prd Kathleen Kennedy, Simon Emanuel, Allison Shearmur
with Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelsen, Genevieve O'Reilly, Jimmy Smits, Alistair Petrie
release US/UK 16.Dec.16
16/UK Lucasfilm 2h13
On a mission: Luna and Jones with K-2SO
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
The first film labelled "A Star Wars Story" isn't quite as stand-alone as expected. This rousing action movie is designed to dovetail directly into A New Hope (with a few trailing embers of Revenge of the Sith), and some of this feels a bit strained. But it's a surprisingly gritty, grown-up battle thriller, building momentum on a grand scale through its strong characters, complex situations and boldly unpredictable storytelling.
With the Empire clamping down, the rebels are feeling defeated. But there are rumours swirling about a massive Death Star, and rebel Jyn (Jones) discovers that her long-lost father Galen (Mikkelsen) built it with a flaw the rebels can exploit. The mission to contact Galen is led by Cassian (Luna), who doubts Jyn's story. They're accompanied by pilot Bodhi (Ahmed), blind Jedi wannabe Chirrut (Yen) and his cohort Baze (Jiang), plus the sardonic robot K-2SO (Tudyk). But weaselly Imperial Director Orson (Mendelsohn) will stop at nothing to get the Death Star up and running.
Edwards directs the film with a grounded sensibility that downplays the effects to make everything feel edgy and realistic. This adds to the underlying tension that grows steadily throughout the story, shifting from space opera into a riveting war movie about an intrepid band of unlikely heroes taking on an impossible mission. Jyn is the only character with a back-story (in the first ever Star Wars pre-title sequence), but all of these people bring a vivid inner emotional life, which provides motivation for their difficult decisions.
Jones anchors the film with a steely performance as a young woman whose past has taught her that there are important principles worth dying for, and also that deeper intentions are more important than impulsive actions. She's a superb protagonist who travels an epic emotional journey through the story. Her primary support comes from Luna, who makes Cassian both reliable and tetchy. But then each member of this rag-tag team has an engaging blend of individuality and likeablity.
Visually, the film harks back to the original 1977 movie with a vengeance, recreating settings and even characters (which is sometimes rather, ahem, uncanny). Digital effects are rendered to look like battered models and puppets, which gives the film a sense of weight that's lacking in most current sci-fi extravaganzas. But then, the enduring strength of Star Wars is that it's not actually science-fiction at all. These are stories about people rising above their personal issues to make a difference in their galaxy. And it's thrilling that the filmmakers have been allowed to go as dark as this.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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