Spoilers for Rogue One follow.
Rogue One is the movie that George Lucas's prequel trilogy should've been — it had original characters, memorable action and a bittersweet tone. The story was powerful, well-written and had surprising depth, tackling difficult philosophical questions of death and hope in wartime. It may be a stretch for some hardcore enthusiasts, but I consider Rogue One to be the best Star Wars story yet.
Death is front and center in Rogue One, and the story doesn't shy away from bleakness. But while all of the deaths were heartbreaking in their own way, one stood out as the film's (and perhaps the series') finest moment.
A master switch had to be pulled for the Rebels’ plan to work, as hell was breaking loose and soldiers were dying left and right. Enter Chirrut (the brilliant and legendary #DonnieYen), a blind Jedi temple monk; with quiet praying words and trust in the Force, he gracefully ambles between blast-fires and explosions to save the day. Soon after, he is killed by an explosion.
It was an incredible moment that made me snap my fingers and declare the movie my favorite. It was powerfully acted, and it's about time Hollywood recognizes Yen's talents. Not only is Chirrut’s walk a pivotal moment for the story, it encapsulates the film's entire philosophy.
Since the film links death with hope, Chirrut’s death focuses on life itself. Chirrut is a calm-inducing monk — he's passive yet carries an ethical compass. The graceful walk towards the master switch is a symbol for harmony, even an ethical statement about the power of nonviolence over action, that itself protects Chirrut until he's fulfilled his purpose. Without Chirrut turning on the master switch, Cassian and Jyn would have been screwed at the archives, and the Empire would've crushed the Rebellion.
Through Chirrut, Rogue One makes clear connections between the Force and buddhism. One of the seven virtues of bushido is that rectitude is the bone that gives firmness; it is the foundation that gives stature. Without bones, the anatomy of the body would cease to stand, hands and feet would cease to move, and there would be no justice. With his sacrifice, Chirrut's rectitude gave the Rebellion the ability to stand.
Knowing that death is able to strike at any moment, Chirrut's decision reflects on the bushido code: the right sacrifice brings meaning to dying.
When Baze takes one last look at his friend, Chirrut's face displays happiness. What makes Rogue One so profound is the fact that dying for justice can spark a smile. The choice to walk through danger for liberation granted Chirrut happiness in death — and his happiness is contagious. Chirrut's sacrifice, which allowed his friends to transmit the Death Star plans, gave everyone else's deaths positive meaning; the moment of Cassian and Jyn in front of the beautiful sunset cements it all.
Rogue One was filled with heartfelt scenes like Chirrut’s bravery. The entire squadron were ethical samurai disguised as Rebels. The film gave death in the Star Wars universe a deep, moral meaning. We felt heartbreak when each character met their end, but we also felt hope, summed up in one line: "The Force is with me, and I am one with the Force."