I hope you've made some room in your collection, because Rogue One: A Star Wars Story serves as the introduction for a handful of new characters. Considering what they accomplished in the film, I'd say their action figures deserve to be next to Han, Rey, Luke, and Leia in any Star Wars toy display. One Rogue One crew member who seems to be perplexing fans with his beliefs and abilities is Chirrut Îmwe, played by Donnie Yen. This movie takes place after Revenge Of The Sith, wherein Palpatine and his followers execute most of the Jedi and send the few remaining scattering across the galaxy. Rogue One's warrior monk appears to be very in tune with the Force, even though Imperial law decrees the Jedi cannot live. But if he's not a Jedi, then what is Chirrut in Rogue One? Spoilers ahead!
"I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me," goes Chirrut's mantra. Jedi or no, this man is well-versed in the Force and how critical it is for all living creatures in the universe that it be in balance. When Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor meet Chirrut and his companion Baze Malbus in Jedha City, the Empire's destruction of the city's temple has uprooted them. As a member of the Guardian Of The Whills, it was the duty of Chirrut and his order to protect the Temple Of The Whills and its contents. Krennic and the Empire raided and then razed the temple to steal the kyber crystals it used to contain. Those Force-attuned crystals form the core of a Jedi's lightsaber, and the Empire needed them to power their new super-weapon: the Death Star. Baze had already dropped out of the order to become a mercenary, but he would never leave the side of his dear friend.
But what exactly did Baze renounce? The Guardians Of The Whills are a religious order who worship and study the Force. They're based on the desert moon of Jedha and have been waiting patiently for their Star Wars moment for about 40 years. George Lucas' early plans for the series included using the Whills as a framing device. They'd serve as sort-of Force historians and pass on the stories of the films. According to Chris Taylor's book How Star Wars Conquered the Universe and reported by io9, Lucas once told his animation director Rob Coleman that "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." is R2-D2 narrating these adventures to the keeper of the Journal Of the Whills.
The Guardians Of The Whills are not Jedi, but it seems that these orders are complementary. And so the confusion about Chirrut is understandable. He's an incredibly precise fighter in spite of his blindness. And though that could be read as the Force guiding his movements, it's also possible that he's well-practiced and extremely tuned in to vibration, sound, and other factors that a seeing person might overlook.
The companion book Star Wars Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide offers up further explanation for Chirrut's uncanny skills. Per ComicBook.com, the book includes details about the warrior's staff, which contains a sliver of the same kyber crystals that power a lightsaber. That sliver emits a sound undetectable by an untrained ear. "Designed as a symbolic source of inner illumination, it also allows Chirrut to better gauge where the end of the staff is, as he can hear both the battery and crystal harmonic," the description reads. No wonder Chirrut is such a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield; his weapon is basically talking to him.
Chirrut's backstory is as fascinating as he is. And I wish that a future appearance could create an opportunity dig further into his service of the Whills. But since Chirrut Îmwe perished on Scarif with the rest of his crew, the brief biography he got in Rogue One will have to do.