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Review: RRR (2022)

RRR [Rise Roar Revolt] (2022)

Directed by: S.S. Rajamouli

Premise: Set in 1920s India, a British colonial governor takes a young woman from her village. The tribal warrior Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.) journeys to rescue her. The colonial authorities assign soldier Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan) to stop Bheem.

What Works: RRR is a spectacular action picture. The movie is set in history and its main characters are based on real-life figures but this is a tall tale like American folktales of Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone. Taken that way, RRR works terrifically well. Filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli brings a larger-than-life style to the picture and RRR has some outlandish but fun set pieces. It is over the top in places but in a way that is delightful rather than exhausting. The craftsmanship and artistry of the action sequences are impressive but the set pieces also communicate aspects of the characters and tell us who they are through the action. RRR combines its outsized scale with intimate character work. Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju are presented as complicated and emotionally vulnerable characters. Bheem is a warrior who can best a tiger but he is socially awkward especially when he meets his crush (Olivia Morris). Raju is an Indian cooperating with the colonial government but he has his own agenda and the tension in Raju’s life is evident throughout Ram Charan’s performance. The heart of the movie is the bromance between Bheem and Raju. The two men become fast friends under false pretenses and the eventual revelation is heartbreaking. RRR weaves together past and present, especially in its second half, in a way that fills in Raju’s background, enhances the implications of the story, and raises the stakes of the climax.

What Doesn’t: RRR is prefaced with text that denies the movie has any political meaning. This is nonsense. Although it is a tall tale, RRR most definitely has political implications. The movie is set during the era of British imperialism and dramatizes the struggle against colonial control with two characters who are based on real resistance fighters. RRR is political in the same way Rambo: First Blood Part II was political. Much of the film looks great but one exception is the digitally created animals. In some shots these creatures look realistic but in others they appear cartoonish. Each of the lead characters of RRR has a love story. Neither of these romances contribute very much to the film and the love story between Bheem and the niece of the colonial governor isn’t credible.

Bottom Line: RRR is an extraordinary action spectacle. The film successfully matches the larger-than-life heroics with an intimate human story that forms a satisfying whole. American filmmakers working in the superhero genre ought to learn from it and audiences should seek it out to discover what they’ve been missing.

Episode: #911 (July 31, 2022)