RRR — Living Up to the Hype

I’d been hearing about RRR for months before finally being able to see it. Well, I’m glad I finally did, because while I was expecting the wild action spectacle that it provides, I wasn’t expecting its social commentary and emotional depth to hit so hard. This Tollywood film is excellent in its own right, while also showing me that maybe I should check out more movies produced in India! Starring N.T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan, this film chronicles the story of Bheem (Rao Jr.) and Raju (Charan), two men who become as close as brothers without realizing they are on opposing sides of the conflict for the soul of India.

This film is highly stylized, and it is more than a blast to watch. Especially in the first 90 minutes of this three-hour film, there are so many action set pieces that are simply exhilarating and will have your jaw on the floor. Part of its appeal as a great blockbuster could be that it’s actually an incredible spectacle, the likes of which we very rarely see come from Hollywood. With only Top Gun: Maverick to rival it, it’s easily the most exciting and well-executed action movie to be released this year. While it has what could be seen as fairly straightforward action sequences like a guy outrunning a tiger, they’re always executed uniquely and inventively. It’s never just two guys fighting or just a chase sequence. The ideas that the filmmakers come up with, and that director S.S. Rajamouli accomplishes are simply astonishing. They’re the main reason to watch the movie, especially if you want to have something that has pure entertainment value.

But the action is only really awesome for the first half of the movie. After that, it becomes brutal and highly effecting. Since this is a character story at its heart, the first half of the movie is spent building a bromance between Bheem and Raju. Bheem’s sister has been taken by the white Englishmen in the 1920s, and his entire purpose is to retrieve her and bring her home. But Raju, against his better judgement, is a police officer for the English government in India, betraying his native people. But they don’t realize that these are each other’s true identities, which creates excellent tension. Their relationship dynamic works well, and the way that it’s explored through the filmmaking enhances it even more. A dance-off scene with them and Englishmen is the highlight of the film — it encapsulates the ecstasy of a great friendship while also showing how secrets and differences have the ability to always keep people apart.

The exciting highs of the first half only serve to make the repeated emotional gut punches of the second half hit that much harder. We get deeper insight into all of the characters — not just the two leads — and it becomes more meditative than thrilling. It’s not the awesome sequences of two men working together to save a boy from being burned; it becomes about the gruesome realities of war, and while spectacular, it never glamorizes the violence in a way that shies away from its realities and effects. It’s a very thin line to walk, but RRR does it just about perfectly.

To have such a stimulating and involved movie actually deliver emotional highs and solid commentary is quite the feat. The English are without question seen as colonizers and imperialists, and the film doesn’t shy away from those ideas for a second. In fact, it’s all about the terrible effects of those concepts and the ways it effects even the smallest and weakest people in a society. It’s a topic that deserves an unflinching look, and RRR delivers immaculately.

I always enjoy movies that are wholly earnest, while also having substance and excitement to provide. RRR is one of the best examples of that to come out this year, and it’s one of those rare examples where a movie lives up to every ounce of hype. 

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