This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Christopher Bird’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Much as with FORCE AWAKENS, it's a good STAR WARS, incorporating visual callbacks to the first trilogy while refreshing them by recontextualizing them. It's both better and worse than that film, though.
It is much better than FORCE AWAKENS because this movie takes a very bold stance in being a fantasy adventure movie which is about failure, and the nobility and value thereof, and hope, and the value thereof. The Luke/Rey/Kylo plot is all about failure, the failures of all three of them and how they choose to deal with failure. The "fleet plot," the other major thread of the film (and I include Finn and Rose's adventures in this plot thread) is also about failure, as plan after plan to escape and/or defy the First Order just sort of fucks up. It's really brave to do this, but better still to make it heroic by tying failure to hope, which is of course a very true thing but also one we tend to ignore in day-to-day life. You can't hope for better if you don't have worse, and worse only comes via failure.
It is worse than FORCE AWAKENS at the same time, though, because the movie really is mostly two half-of-a-movies running concurrently which have very little to do with one another until the end - much like JULIE AND JULIA. Also like JULIE AND JULIA, one of the two half-movies (Luke/Rey/Kylo) is obviously better than the other one. All of the flaws and the flab in this movie - and at two hours and thirty-three minutes, this movie is easily the longest Star Wars flick, and oh man there is a good twenty minutes that could have been cut - is in the "fleet plot" half of the movie. Half of the Canto Blight sequences simply do not need to be in this film - it's easily the most "prequelly" scenes of the new films so far - and exist mostly to give Finn something to do and for Rose to give her speech about evil rich people (which is a good speech and contextualizes hope and the eventual rebirth of the Rebellion in the plotline, but then why ten minutes of riding the deer thingies?). Benicio Del Toro's amoral codebreaker explaining how he believes "both sides are the same" did not need to be in this movie (and is almost offensive to boot, even though it's coming from an amoral guy we're not supposed to like). All of the fridge logic failures are in the fleet half of the movie. (Why doesn't Holdo just TELL Poe what the plan is? Yes, I get that she and Leia were pissed at him for the stupid dreadnought attack, but it seems like a weak excuse. Also, why did nobody think to transfer fuel from the other two ships to the cruiser and then have THEM lightspeed-ram the First Order fleet? I don't have a good answer for that one.)
Also, we never get an answer to "who the fuck is Snoke, anyway?" and while that question may be ultimately unimportant, I still would have liked one. Just a little something to explain who this evil dude was.
Also, while Ridley, Hamill, Driver, Fisher and Isaac give excellent performances, and Boyega is good enough in a weaker role than FORCE AWAKENS, Del Toro is just irritating (a verbal tic is not a character), Gleeson questionable (as I am unsure whether he was hamming it up or whether the script forced his hand) and Tran sort of underwhelming.
Still: the highs it hits are so high that they more than compensate for the lows. It's just frustrating when a film, especially a blockbuster like this one, hits you so hard and has such moments of stark emotion and beauty, and then ruins the impact of them with filler when it's so damn close to being an all-timer.