Friday, March 10, 2023

Best Movies of 2022, #1: RRR

I see so few foreign films these days that it seems silly to include any on these lists. Who am I to say what the best foreign films are if I never go see them? Some years, I’ve specifically made excuses for myself and specified that these are “The Best American Movies of” whatever year. But this year I couldn’t do that because I had to shout to the hills that my favorite movie of the year was from Tollywood, a film center that I had not even previously heard of.

MCU Phase 4 lost its way, but this movie shows how to find it again. With superlative cinematography, music, SFX and editing, this might be the perfect simulacrum of an American blockbuster action flick, surpassing the thing it’s emulating in every way. It works as a straightforward action movie and as a sly parody of action movie ludicrousness at the same time.

I think that one reason the movie is so rousing is that it has a sure sense of good and evil. It helps, of course, that India, unlike America, was enslaved by a purely evil empire for so long. I left the movie wanting to kill the first white person I saw. But though the villains were gloriously villainous, the movie still finds lots of intense moral dilemmas as the heroes debate the best way to confront evil. It really tore me up trying to imagine what I would do if placed in these difficult positions.

I think MCU movies try too hard to get you to sympathize with the villains, partially because they’re primarily made for a country that has played the villain more often in history than it has played the hero. Seeing this rousing action movie made me wish that we had more often been the heroes of our own stories. (Other than one five year period in the 1940s.)

We’ve talked about how long the movies were this year, and the problem that they seemed to wrap up 90 minutes in, only to fire themselves back up again. Those issues were both magnified here. The movie is over three hours long and comes very close to a satisfactory conclusion halfway through, and I found myself thinking “I’ve really enjoyed the first half, but this movie is going to overstay its welcome now. I’m checking out and there’s no way to reignite my interest.” But I should have trusted the movie. The movie fires back up quickly and slammed me back into gear. The second half reveals that there’s much more to the story than we had previously suspected, and culminates in a much more satisfying conclusion than the movie could have previously offered.

The result is three hours of pure cinematic joy. It’s the best movie of the year. Go see it.

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