You can’t win a war by being a Goody Two-Shoes.

In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the theology of that faraway galaxy with its Force takes a backseat, and the troubled soul of the rebellion is at the controls. Why are these men and women raging against the imperial order and its forces? What sacrifices must be made if they hope to succeed? And what kind of society are they trying to overthrow and to realize? We know that the Empire is pretty uniform, very white, and very male. In the way the members of an ant colony are almost all sisters and almost all identical, the ruling and subordinate members of the Galactic Empire's war machine are all brothers and all look the same.

The rebels, on the other hand, are a heterogeneous lot. They speak different languages (and very different forms of English—Chinese English, Mexican English, British English, Black American English), they vary widely in size, they are males, females, and whatever is in between and beyond, and they are not only multiracial but multi­species. We can assume that the society the rebels want to establish in their galaxy must look like them—diverse.

But the rebels have their problems. True, they are fighting for the good (diversity and a kind of monarchical parliamentarism), but they also do bad things in the name of this larger good, which is ultimately their idea (in the sense of the idea in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: "Something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to"). The Empire has its idea, and the rebels have theirs, and this is the meat of Gareth Edwards's Rogue One, which, of course, is very entertaining, is packed with action, moves very quickly, makes little demands on its actors, has beautiful spectacles of destruction, and involves a battle scene that will leave you exhausted.

Now, what is the bad side of the rebellion? We see it early. Cassian Andor, a Rebel Alliance intelligence officer and one of film's main characters (played by Mexican actor Diego Luna), kills an innocent man, who in his panic draws the attention of Stormtroopers to himself in an alley on a moon-sized, densely populated trading post. Cassian is a murderer. What he did to that poor fellow, execute him to save his own hide, was cruel and unconscionable. But you can't win a war by being a Goody Two-Shoes. To beat evil, you must use evil. During a moment at the rebel base, there is a direct conversation about this, and all come to agree that amoral spies, freelance assassins, and terrorists with underworld connections are needed if the goal is to win the war.

This is one of the darkest films in the Star Wars series.

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It's set in the time before the Rebel Alliance destroys the Death Star, a massive planet-destroying machine, by dropping a bomb into its one and only, very small flaw (the story of the first film of the series' first trilogy, Star Wars: A New Hope). Rogue One concerns why the Death Star has a flaw in the first place—and how the Rebel Alliance obtained information about it. The price for this information, we learn, was very high indeed.

The Empire is not a joke. Its economic and military power is immense, and the power of its uniformity is almost unstoppable. To challenge it, you need more than just the Force, which in Rogue One is with a blind ronin named Chirrut Îmwe (Hong Kong martial artist Donnie Yen). He does not really stand out but is instead a cog in the resistance machine. A rebel must, above all, feel that the realization of the ideal future—here in the form of a harmonious, heterogeneous galactic society—far surpasses (1) the evils of war and (2) the self. If you miss this point, the sacrifices of a revolution, then you will not understand the greatness of Rogue One.

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