Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (4 stars)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Gareth Edwards takes the helm of the franchise's first spin-off, starring Felicity Jones

After last year's Star Wars rebirth The Force Awakens comes the first spin-off film in the franchise. Directed by Britain's Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), Rogue One is set just before the original 1977 Star Wars: Episode IV in the sprawling George Lucas-created space opera. With the Rebel Alliance at war with Imperial forces, word reaches the rebellion that the Empire is constructing a new super weapon: the Death Star.

Here, the heroes are not Luke, Leia and Han but a new cast of characters led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a troublemaker who is snatched by the Rebels to make contact with her estranged father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), now in the clutches of the Empire and, under the supervision of Ben Mendelsohn's Imperial officer Orson Krennic, responsible for the Death Star's construction.

Joining her in this search is Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), his droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), blind swordsman Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), the blaster-wielding Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed). Like the Dirty (half)Dozen, this ragtag crew jet across the galaxy (to so many planets that Edwards has to employ captions – a Star Wars first).

While he isn't afraid to mix things up, Edwards happily nods to Lucas's original movie. Characters, props, design, locations, hardware – all will be familiar. But Rogue One avoids the nostalgic glow that enveloped The Force Awakens. First and foremost, this is a war movie, Star Wars from the trenches, and the climactic battle scenes are nothing short of sensational.

Emotions run high too, thanks to great performances from Jones and Luna, though martial arts superstar Yen, like a Force-worshiping Zatoichi, steals it with a magnificent turn. If it doesn't quite elicit the chills of The Force Awakens, it's still a superlative blockbuster – and the most battle-hardened Star Wars yet.

General release from Thu 15 Dec.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 2h 13min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Gareth Edwards
  • Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jonathan Aris
  • UK release: 16 December 2016

Troublemaker Jyn Erso (Jones) and Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Luna) lead a rag crew across the galaxy to make contact with Death Star chief engineer Galen (Mikkelsen), Jyn's dad. This is Star Wars from the trenches, with sensational battle scenes and great performances from Jones and Luna.