The Sniper Shot in Rogue One

Rogue One stands out in the Star Wars universe for being a stand-alone story that plugs some of the gaps of the past and helps explain better future events. It is also a densely layered creation with tremendous attention to detail and, despite its sci-fi context, a lot of realism. 

About halfway through the film there is the famous sniper scene where Captain Cassian Andor turns his amazing A180 pistol into a sniper rifle and takes aim at Galen Erso, Jyn Erso’s father, through the scope of his rifle, in the rain.

The scene, more than being another handy plot device intended to ratchet up the tension for the viewer actually makes a lot of sense from a strategic point of view but it’s the execution details that actually captured my attention upon first viewing and made me admire Gareth Edwards’ deft touch with direction

Captain Cassian Andor in Rogue One
Captain Cassian Andor in sniping position in Rogue One

If we deconstruct it the elements that Captain Andor has to play with are: 

  • Poor light (it’s getting darker)
  • Distance (obviously)
  • Rain (making things harder)
  • Short window of opportunity (Galen Erso may move inside or out of a clear shooting space)

Captain Andor has his orders but he’s also a highly skilled operative who has learned to survive on his own in hostile territory because of the quality of his executive decision making. When he doesn’t take the shot, there is no apparent reason why. Yet, in that cinematic moment he reveals the executive decision making process that takes place in the mind of a real, trained sniper. 

Galen Erso in the sniper scene in Rogue One
Galen Erso in the sniper scene in Rogue One

Looking through a scope a sniper is not just a finger waiting to pull a trigger. The power of mental concentration needed to make a shot places snipers’ minds in what they euphemistically call “the bubble”. All distractions fade away. Difficulties such as environmental conditions, distance, weapons range and angle of fire become abstracted: fluid calculation that need to be taken into account and factored into the other elements that go into the moment. And above all that is the decision waiting to be made: fire or not fire. Kill, or not kill. The binary reality of that outcome creates a weight all of its own. 

That’s why no sniper who looks through his scope sees just targets. The scene, instead is broken down into points of data. Each person they see represents a value that is then linked to and altered by its relation to the other points of data around it. Is the person on the scope behaving in a particular way? Is their body language right? Is something else in the picture not quite what it should be?

At the moment of execution, when the decision needs to be made the sniper has to be certain he is making the right decision for all the right reasons. That requires the presence of mind to capture and analyze everything that is happening in their scope, in detail, accurately and filter it through accumulated, real-world knowledge. 

The aim is to look at the scene and: 

  • Understand the content
  • Divine context
  • Infer intent

Beyond the apparent usefulness of such an approach to the universal executive decision making point every sniper faces, there is real value in transferring the approach to business. 

Put most simply, if every critical business decision you took was run through that filter, how would it be different in its outcome? How would your business fare then?

And, just to keep things light, would you, in Captain Andor’s shoes have taken that shot given what you knew up to that point in the plot? 

Be honest.


Find out more about The Sniper Mind: Eliminate Fear, Deal with Uncertainty, and Make Better Decisions and how it can help you make better decisions in life and business here.

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