One Great Shot: The Last Jedi (2017)

Preamble

One great shot is a monthly (hopefully) series of blog posts, dedicated to briefly discussing a striking single shot. I think of the shot in question as a painting in a gallery that I’m commenting on. It’s essentially a free association exercise with a bit of context thrown in (when required).

I could not think of a better film to start with than The Last Jedi. My constant gushing about the film is common knowledge and frankly a little embarrassing at this point. However, much like the franchise itself, Jedi is a bridge for me to venture onto new ideas for posts and content. What’s your favourite shot from The Last Jedi? Let me know in the comments below.

One Great Shot: The Last Jedi

By itself, General Leia overlooking the base on Crait is a striking shot. It puts one in mind of old stories where a character seems larger than life. Leia is framed as though she’s an ancient guardian who’s always been watching over the Rebellion. The shot is also an illustration of one of the character’s most endearing qualities. Since her introduction in A New Hope, Leia’s defiance has been an important characteristic.

With this in mind, the shot is excellent in showing this character trait, with Leia appearing as though she’s the last person that stands in the way of the First Order. Despite the shot having a mythical quality, director Rian Johnson’s next shot greatly humanises Leia. Johnson employs a close up of the General before she requests the door to the base to shut.

Throughout The Last Jedi, Johnson cinematically shows the characters as grand mythical figures and then immediately reminds you (via a close-up or medium shot) that they’re all too human. What makes this shot resonate is that Johnson has reminded the audience that Leia (via her conversation with Vice Admiral Holdo) has experienced such a large amount of loss. You get the sense that it’s starting to weigh on her character’s soul (akin to carrying a large burden).

In conception, the shot is a testament to Leia’s tenacity and ability to carry on fighting (despite the profound personal toll it has taken). It also points to the humanity of the character, who has always had to stay strong for others (particularly in A New Hope).

Finally, the shot feels like an echo of a similar moment in The Phantom Menace. In that scene, Queen Amidala/Padme (Leia’s mother) looks outside her palace as the Trade Federation start to surround and occupy Naboo’s capital- Theed. Like Leia’s isolation on Crait, there’s a mythic quality to Amidala’s moment in her palace, evoking the proverbial Princess being trapped in her castle. However, as the camera gives us a closer look at the Queen, the moment transforms into something tragic and inspiring. A monarch stands in a state of silent defiance against the enemies at the gate.

Rian Johnson’s choice to evoke this shot illustrates a firm understanding of the inherent poetic quality of the saga. In this instance, there’s a generational alignment of the female figureheads, who fiercely stand, and patiently wait for the war to come to their shores.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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