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Review: Star Wars Rogue One, captures the true dark side of insurgency

Lima Charlie MENA Chief John Sjoholm reviews Star Wars, Rogue One, and reminds us that those drawn into battle against insurgencies, can quickly descend into the madness.


Star Wars. I like Star Wars. I grew up on Star Wars. I wish they’d make even more Star Wars. I do not acknowledge the existence of any prequels. With one exception. Star Wars Rogue One.

I am not big on thinking that any movement or individual is free of darkness. The more someone tries to portray themselves as a good person, the less I instinctually trust them and believe that the truth must be a dark one.

As such, I never believed the legend of the Jedi Knights or the Rebellion in the three original Star Wars movies. I never believed that the Jedi or the Rebellion could be all good, and that there were no atrocities, genocides or massacres in their shallow past. Anything so righteous and pure must surely be a thin veneer to cover up the true viciousness that is human nature.

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I know war. War (especially a rebellion) is a savagely brutal affair. I know that in war, goodness dies mere moments after the truth, which is always the very first casualty.

Star Wars Rogue One justifies that belief.

And I am so glad I saw it. It might very well be the best war movie – which happens to be tied in with the Star Wars franchise – that I have seen in recent years. And it deals sublimely with the difficulties of combatting, and carrying out, an effective insurgency against an enemy whose military might is seemingly endless. That feels relatable and relevant.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.

– John F. Kennedy

In Rogue One it becomes clear that the Rebellion has been gazing into the abyss that is the Empire far too long. The abyss gazed back. The Rebellion adapted to utilize the same tactics as what they sought to fight against. Torture, assassinations, killings of civilians, nothing is above and beyond those that fight for that subjective thing called “freedom”.

In the film we see fringe groups from within the Rebellion set off explosives in a crowded market filled with civilians, just to take out a handful of Empire soldiers. We see Rebellion fighters shoot people in the back, plan assassinations against scientists, and abduct people, only to torture them mercilessly to get a mere speck of information that the abductor already has. The torture techniques used and their depiction in the film easily make the equaling scenes in Zero Dark Thirty, that so many objected to, appear mundane and tame.

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Remember the debacle when George Lucas messed up the cantina scene? Han Solo shot first, and we like it that way. In Rogue One the supposed good guy has enough darkness in him from previous assassinations and killings of innocents, it makes Han Solo look like a naughty alter boy. I loved it.

While there are those inside the Rebellion that wish to conduct themselves with a degree of decorum, to follow the unwritten rules of civility, they are quickly side stepped by those that carry a more pragmatic and harsher perspective. Rogue One is as much about the fight that lead up to Star Wars A New Hope (1977), as it is about the balancing act by those that fight an insurgency to not descend too far into the darkness themselves.

By the time we met our favorite rogues, princesses, robe wearing pious fellows, and droids in A New Hope, the insurgency that is the Rebellion had already been going on for two decades. Rogue One takes place in the weeks leading up to the events in the first movie, and is beautifully crafted, integrating itself seamlessly into the grander story. It also pulls off the neat trick of working as a stand alone film for those that just want to watch a really great space war film.

And for those of us that have spent the better part of our lives fighting in sandy places, the movie is virtually impossible not to find some form of connection with. Be it good or bad. Rogue One does a beautiful job showing that those of us that have been drawn into battle against insurgencies, can quickly descend to meet the madness therein. You dance with the devil, and you will get burnt.

Star Wars: Rogue One, I give it with glee and passion 8/10 LimaCharlie (LC)-Film points.

Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Story by: John Knoll, Gary Whitta
Based on Characters by George Lucas
Starring:  Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker
Production company: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release date: December 16, 2016 (United States)
Run time: 133 minutes

John Sjoholm, Middle East Bureau Chief, Lima Charlie News

John Sjoholm is Lima Charlie’s Middle East Bureau Chief, and the founder of the consulting organization Erudite Group. He is a seasoned Middle East connoisseur, with a past in the Swedish Army’s Special Forces branch and the Security Contracting industry. He studied religion and languages in Sana’a, Yemen, and Cairo, Egypt. He lived and operated extensively in the Middle East between 2005-2012 as part of regional stabilizing projects, and currently resides in Jordan. Follow John on Twitter: @JohnSjoholmLC

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