Movie Review: RRR

RRR stands for Rise Roar Revolt, an epic and impassioned fictional chronicle from filmmaker, S.S. Rajamouli, the most expensive Indian film to date. Co-writer and director, Rajamouli focusses on Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju, two legendary revolutionaries on either side of British-occupied India who band together to fight for their country in the 1920s. Hindu mythology and painful history intersect as Rajamouli’s vision infuses pulsating action-adventure with vivid fantasy as a seemingly unbreakable friendship is put to the test.

RRR is spectacular, a grand and visually-enticing movie that blends the visual effects majesty of today’s superhero universe with the gung-ho valour of yesteryear’s war comic books. While based on the lives of two real freedom fighters, the movie presupposes what might have happened if they actually met in the key of legend. Instead of battling against Nazi scum, RRR takes aim at the British Raj, turning their leaders, foot soldiers, beneficiaries and treacherous servants into hell spawn – whose one weakness is song and dance à la ‘Naacho Naacho’.

This intense prejudice is meant to be subverted by one character’s naïve yet levelheaded sentiment. However, this token is no match for the tide of anger against the Empire, turning RRR into a fierce, pulpy and heavily slanted depiction of India under British rule. While this larger-than-life adventure doesn’t aim for realism by a long shot, the historical context does make it seem loaded, redoubling its ferocity to the point of verging on propaganda. The inflamed spirit of rebellion is strong, compelling the revolutionaries to rise, roar and revolt in response to numerous acts of oppression and cold-hearted injustice.

A visual extravaganza, RRR doesn’t shy away from large scale action sequences with a storyboard that probably would’ve been easier served as an animated feature. The movie’s soundtrack packs a punch too, winning an Oscar for Best Original Song for ‘Naatu Naatu’ with sound design geared towards maximum impact. This is a visceral cinematic experience, which includes some entertaining Bollywood song and dance numbers, culminating in a fourth-wall-breaking showstopper.

“Welcome to the danger zone!”

Clocking in at over 3-hours, RRR works hard to keep audiences transfixed through its audio-visual panache, channeling two spirited co-lead performances from N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan into a colourful, epic and windswept myth. While it has similarities with the dusty yet glorious sports drama, Lagaan, the action adventure’s “superhero” treatment and supersize appetite sends it way over the top. Rarely a dull moment, RRR remains entertaining and full of fire, even in some of the quieter moments.

N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan have palpable on-screen chemistry, developing an enduring bromance that forms the emotional core of RRR. Their character’s stark contrasts make this connection even more powerful as a fateful and heroic rescue unites and strengthens their noble efforts. Ajay Devgn deserves a special mention for his heartfelt turn as the tragic father figure, Venkata Rama Raju. Then, Ray Stevenson is evil incarnate as Scott Buxton, even if his militant-Santa-Claus look has a few shades of Kelsey Grammer, stirring up hatred opposite his equally heartless “Mrs Claus” with Alison Doody as Catherine Buxton.

RRR fights to hold your attention with some breathtakingly beautiful and powerful scenes, however it’s somewhat constrained when it comes to storytelling. The 3 hour high-value runtime is a lot to take in, the two-dimensional handling of the British limits nuance, contrivances affect story integrity and even hair and make up have a bearing on a lead character and the film’s timeline and sense of continuity.

While RRR is far from perfect, it’s self-aware enough to excuse the intentionally over-the-top treatment. There are moments that are so preposterous you can only laugh and others that are quite simply awe-inspiring. Trying to pack as much entertainment value as it possibly can into the space of 187 minutes, the overall effect is so exhilarating, flaws are infrequent enough to overlook and just as quickly forgotten. In spite of these shortcomings, RRR is fierce, impassioned and visceral, an epic and ridiculously entertaining spectacle.

The bottom line: Fierce