Welcome, World Travelers! Is RRR The Best Movie You’ve Never Seen?
by James Coulter
Sometimes, I wonder if I’m doing everyone a disservice by reviewing only Disney films. Does anyone really need to be encouraged to see the latest Disney or Marvel movie? Of course folks are going to watch and like it. People don’t need to be told to see it. But you know what they should be told to watch? One of the greatest blockbusters ever made that very few people have seen or even heard of!
RRR is not a Disney movie—and with a PG-13 rating that leans in hard with graphic violence, it’s not exactly a “family” film either. It’s an Indian film that experienced a limited theatrical release earlier this year before being released onto Netflix. But believe me when I say RRR is not only the best movie I’ve seen this year, but the best I’ve watched in the past several years. It is that good!
RRR can be best described as what would happen if a Japanese anime received a live-action adaptation with the budget and production value of a Marvel movie and with intermittent Hamilton-style musical numbers. It is a roller coaster of high-octane action and emotion. Everything about it is gloriously melodramatic!
Honestly, I fear words cannot do this movie justice. If the promise of explosions caused by arrow-launched grenades, strong men fighting wolves and tigers with their bare hands, and climatic action scenes set amidst hordes of attacking wild animals doesn’t interest you, I’m not sure what will. The best I can tell you is to stop reading this review, turn on Netflix, and watch this movie for yourself. The movie is just that good. And if you require more than that to pique your interest, allow me describe the first few moments of the movie:
RRR is set in India in the early 20th-century during British occupation. The movie with the British govenor and his wife visiting a small village in the middle of the jungle. A young girl named Mali attends to the wife and sings her a song. The governor’s wife loves her singing so much that she pays the child’s mother. But she is not paying for the song. She is buying the child! The mother tries to stop them, but is nearly shot by a guard. The governor stops the guard and tells him shooting her would be wrong—because it would be a waste of a good bullet! So the guard batters the mother to death with a tree branch instead. This is our inciting incident!
The movie follows two protagonists. The first, Bheem, is a tribal leader and the girl’s brother who has been sent to rescue the girl. In his introductory scene, he stands in the middle of the jungle wearing only a loincloth, lures a wild wolf to chase him and fight a wild tiger, and then fights the tiger himself with only his bare hands.
The second, Ram, is an officer in the British army. He has been commissioned to track down and capture Bheem. In his introductory scene, he single-handedly leaps into an angry mob and cuts his way through thousands of protesters using only hisbaton. One guard tells his commanding officer that the wild mob scared him. His commanding officer replies that Ram scares him more.
Both protagonists eventually cross paths, not realizing they are both enemies, and join forces to save a boy from a burning bridge. Both characters take hold of a rope. One drives one direction on a motorbike. The other, in the opposite direction on a horse. One takes hold of the Indian flag before they both jump off the bridge, swing down on the rope, and fish the boy out of the water with the flag before being crushed by the falling train. Both men then take each other by the hand in the most epic handshake against the backdrop of the exploding engine.
All of this happens before the opening title sequence—nearly 40 minutes into the movie, which is three hours long! Again, if these first few moments do not encourage you to keep watching the movie, I’m not sure what will.
Yes, you read that correctly. RRR is a three-hour movie! Yet the film is so jam-packed with thrills and action that you’ll hardly feel time pass. Every action scene feels epic and climatic, to the point where you’ll assume the movie is near the end, only to notice that many more minutes of the movie still remain.
Such is the case with one action scene where Bheem attempts to rescue Mali by crashing a truck into a mansion, unleashing a horde of wild animals onto unsuspecting partygoers to be horrifically maimed and killed, and to stand off against another character who enters in on a flaming chariot pulled by a herd of deer. This climatic scene feels like the movie’s epic conclusion, but it comes in at only the halfway point!
Everything about this movie is over-the-top. The protagonists aren’t just good guys. They’re heroes with Herculean strength performing death-defying feats. And the antagonists they face off against aren’t just bad guys. They’re mustache-twirling villains without a single trace of sympathy. The govenor values the cost of a bullet more than actual human life (a sentiment that ironically comes back to haunt him), and his blood-thirsty wife nonchalantly offers a barbed whip to use on a prisoner. This movie wants you to actively cheer the heroes and jeer the villains.
The only thing larger than the action scenes are the musical numbers. Yes, like any good Indian movie, there are cinematic musical numbers. The best, by far, has the two main characters engaged in a Bollywood-style dance battle against stuffy stiff-upper-lipped British aristocrats during a formal party. Then there’s one scene where a character is being publicly flogged, singing a song so moving it inspires the crowd to riot. And the movie ends with an ultra-patriotic number lauding the praises of India—a number which, had it been performed in an American movie about America, would have been decried as either parody or propaganda.
There is so much I want to praise about this movie, but I’ve already written so much. Overall, RRR is not a good movie. It is not even a great movie. It is one of the best movies. That may sound hyperbolic, but to quote Patrick Willems’ review: the movie itself is hyperbolic. It has everything: action, adventure, romance, comedy, suspense, and great music. It’s everything a great movie should be. If you have Netflix, go watch it. You will not be disappointed!