Felicity Jones plays the titular character Jyn Erso, daughter of the famous weapons engineer Galen Erso, played by the talented and versatile Mads Mikkelsen.
The movie opens with a very Inglorious Bastards type opening where the infamous Imperial weapons and security specialist, Commander Krennic, tracks the retired Galen Erso hiding away on a distant planet. Krennic blackmails Krennic into coming back to oversee the special weapons project, which no surprise, is a secret weapon of unimaginable destructive power.
Although Galen is reluctant to help the Empire, when Krennic kills his wife and threatens to find his missing daughter and do the same, Erso reluctantly agrees. Thus the beginning of our story.
Flashing forward 15 years, we find a grown Jyn Erso in an Imperial detention center. Quite a serious one too. During a routine prisoner transfer a band of Rebels frees her. This is where we meet our other two main players in the story, Captain Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, and his trusty, re-programmed Imperial droid, K-2SO (or just K-2 for short), voice by the lovable Alan Tudyk.
Cassian needs Jyn's help in tracking down her father and informs her that her father has just helped the Empire complete the ultimate weapon. Although reluctant to join sides, Jyn Erso decided to help Cassian if it means being reunited with her father, and joins his Rebel cause.
Here is where the adventure gets rolling.
In tracking down her father we meet many other fascinating characters. Including the blind Imwe played by Donnie Yen, and his trusted friend, the gun toting Baze Malbus, played by Wen Jiang.
Our heroes get caught up in the terrorist antics of Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker, who has ties to Jyn Erso and her father. Following a series of clues, our heros track down Galen Erso, but things go wrong.
Eventually the Rebel's wild goose chase leads them to the Tropical planet Scarif where the plans for the dreaded Death Star are being held. The Rebels of infiltrate the database, get the plans, and beam them out.
Of course, amazing ground battles and space battles ensue, harking back to the style of Return of the Jedi where we ingenously cut between space battles and land battles. Many don't give Return of the Jedi enough credit, but it is a brilliantly edited film and one of the best Star Wars films in terms of story telling and narrative.
Rogue One channels its inner Star Wars in the last third of the film. The third act is full of Star Wars references and space battles and it truly feels like a Star Wars movie.
Before the third act, however, it feels like a dire war film with more in common with Saving Private Ryan than Star War, except that it's set firmly within the aesthetic of Star Wars.
Now, it seems, many people love this new, grimmer, grimier, darker and more adult feel to Star Wars. I think Rogue One shows just how versatile and big of a sandbox George Lucas's Star Wars universe truly is. Especially those who do not watch the cartoon series Clone Wars or Rebels, which you really should if you are to consider yourself a true Star Wars fan since nearly 90% of all the mythos is generated and contained in these cononical animated series. Also, as an aside, it is my strong opinon that The Clone Wars animated series is the best part of all of the Star Wars franchise. But I digress. Back to the review.
Whether or not you're a die hard Star Wars fan or just a fan of action films, Star Wars Rogue One is an all around solid film. For the Star Wars enthusiast there are tons of Easter Eggs litered throughout. Many reviewers have said this was completely unecessary, but I disagree. Without these quaint throwbacks and reminders, Rogue One wouldn't have felt nearly Star Wars enough. It would have been a solid science-fiction war movie, because that's what it is. But the Easter Eggs really do help to solidify it as something that is part of the Star Wars universe.
After all, if there hadn't been reshoots to fix the ending and tie it to Star Wars more definitively, then the film really would not have felt very Star-Warsy at all. Thanks goodness they did though! Because that final act is epic in almost every way. And Darth Vader fans... Oh. My. God! You're in for a real treat.
But that's all I'm going to say about that.
I personally enjoyed the movie way more than I thought I would. Many are saying it's better than The Force Awakens, but I'm not so sure. One is a Star Wars movie, and the other is a movie with a Star Wars story. One is the following the main arc, and the other is a spin-off, so comparing the two as if they were attempting the same style narrative would be a mistake. That said, their quality is on par with one another, and that's an extremely good sign for things to come. If Disney keeps up the quality, whether grim and dark like Rogue One, with lots of killing and adult themse, or light harted and adventure filled like The Force Awakens, the bottom line is we'll be getting a lot of great Star Wars films in the future.
One bit of warning, however, I took my daughter (who is seven years old) to Rogue One because she absolutely loves Star Wars. She binge watched 3,000 hours of The Clone Wars and Rebels animation with me. She's watched the original tirlogy. And she adores The Force Awakens. That in mind, she absolutely did NOT like Rogue One. She thought it was too much fighting. It wasn't fun for her. And when I asked if she wanted to go see it a second time with me she flat out said "No."
So bare that in mind if you're thinking of taking the young ones to Rogue One. They may not find it entertaining as it truly is on the adult side in terms of the themes and story telling.