“Not only is it boundless in energy and enthusiasm, but its generous sense of creativity keeps its viewers in its enthralling hold.”
by Ken Bakely
The beautiful thing about S. S. Rajamouli’s RRR is that it’s three hours, but practically feels like it could go on forever. Not only is it boundless in energy and enthusiasm, but its generous sense of creativity keeps its viewers in its enthralling hold. It’s rousing, both in its scope and its no-holds-barred story, with a historical foundation sprawling built on and expanded by Rajamouli’s endlessly layered complications: set in India in 1920, under British imperial rule, it follows heavily fictionalized versions of revolutionaries Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.) and Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan). In Rajamouli’s story, a girl in Bheem’s tribe has been kidnapped by colonial governor Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson) and his wife, Catherine (Alison Doody), and Bheem begins plotting a rescue mission, whilst the governor appoints Raju, one of his officers, to capture him before. But fate leads their paths to cross in unexpected ways, collaborating to save a wayward child from an accident without realizing who the other is, and they form an unlikely friendship, complicating their intended missions, but laying the groundwork for something else entirely, as their uneasy friendship unfolds against their vast and perilously militarized surroundings.
A lot happens in this movie, but what’s critical to understand is that much of it is focused on building and investigating the bond between Bheem and Raju, in all the thorny subtexts in what they’re concealing from each other, and all the mighty accomplishments in what their outrageous strengths can accomplish together. They’re both subject to the whims of a cruel colonial leadership – something Rajamouli makes sure that we never forget – and such a shared experience is what holds true through everything that follows, as RRR considers the different places that these characters approach this harrowing context. Rao and Charan give solid lead performances, compelling both individually and collectively, and in developing their characterization and navigating the film’s brilliantly conceived, mounted, and performed action scenes.
Yes, although RRR does give due consideration to its plotting, its biggest focus is whiz-bang spectacle, and it excels with extraordinary ability. At its core, this is one of the most ceaselessly thrilling, unrelentingly vibrant, and effortlessly dynamic movies to have come around in quite a while. From stupendously choreographed fight scenes, to outrageous individual stunts, to highly entertaining musical sequences, this movie does more than run with its ideas – it laps itself, over and over, without slowing down once. It’s truly something to behold, and it’s hard to know where to begin. This is a movie that features, very early on, a lengthy fight scene featuring a human and a tiger. From there, it continues on, apace, as if it were the most baseline idea in the world – and by the standards of this film, it practically is. RRR operates with great fluidity and intensity, completely committed to its own ideas and its delivery without a shred of doubt or second-guessing.
There’s no detachment here, no matter how knowingly over-the-top it becomes, because it simply couldn’t work if it had any doubt or indicated a modicum of second-guessing. In short, this movie knows that it’s very, very cool from the get-go, and it’s merely bringing you on board with that fact as well. And somehow, Rajamouli is able to retain a remarkable sense of consistency throughout – even in the deepest throes of the film’s at-times vividly brutal violence, there is such a majestic exuberance to the entire project. RRR, I should note, is an initialism that translates to “rise, roar, revolt” in English-speaking markets. At the risk of overreading this, this is a wonderfully fitting title. Three action verbs. It tells you everything it will be about, and it presents it in a simultaneously smooth and punchy clip.