NOTE: What's below contains an unusually significant spoiler alert.
Half, if not more, of the three hours of Vijay Krishna Acharya's Dhoom 3, the third installment of the wildly-successful "Dhoom" franchise, is filled with spectacle, very well choreographed, adrenaline-pumping spectacle: motorcycle chases, song and dance numbers, and, because it's a circus story, staged performances. That's just as well because a couple of plot holes, one the size of the Grand Canyon, destroy the credibility but not the enjoyment of an otherwise good story that pits revenge versus forgiveness.
Set in Chicago, with English subtitles, it's the story of Sahir (Aamir Khan). In a flashback, we learn that a wanker of a banker forecloses on his family's Great Indian Circus, after which time his father kills himself. A quarter of a century later, Sahir is back, having resurrected the Circus with money he steals from the bank that indirectly killed his father. The robberies and subsequent escapes are every bit as spine tingling and daring as the circus performances, which feature the comely walk-on Aaliya (Katrina Kaif). Both the robberies and the performances are characterized by Sahir's ability to be in two, if not more, places at once. Dazzling fun, worth the price of admission.
Sahir leaves clues in Hindi, which implausibly brings ace Mumbai copper Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) and his sidekick Ali (Uday Chopra) to the Windy City. Jai and Ali are as acrobatic and charismatic as their prey but it still doesn't explain how, miraculously and unusually, Amir manages to stay one step ahead. Amir even volunteers, cheekily, to assist Jai, Jai not having a clue that Amir uses his too-easily conferred access to layouts, plans, and security codes to plan and execute yet another successful robbery.
The acting is great. Khan, with the coiled decorum of Charlie Chaplin and the sprung fury of Jackie Chan, brings methodical rage to the role of an avenging son. We feel for him; nothing he does is gratuitous. He's all business, somehow even not noticing the alluring Aaliya when they're not performing in the circus. He's a man on a mission, he's got our sympathy (we despise bankers; we love our fathers) and, so we think, it's just a matter of time until he utterly destroys, physically not financially, the bank that wrecked such havoc on his young life.
Same too with Bachchan and Chopra. Bachchan's the good cop, serious, focused, while vain and wisecracking Ali's the funny one. In Mumbai, Bachchan has respect if not adulation as a man who gets things done while Ali is the Most Likely to Get Sidetracked by Women. They're a well-cast team but philosophically their civic mission (preserve and protect) is easily trumped by Khan's personal anger. Kaif's like a wine that hasn't had a chance to breathe; she's fantastic as a circus performer, as a love interest; but you wish she had a bigger role than simply as a pawn for the emotional blackmail that almost got the brothers to surrender.
And then, the story goes sideways. The secret of Khan's derring-do? He's got a twin brother, Samar, which explains how Jai might think he shot Khan in a getaway but, upon inspection, Khan's back is unblemished by a bullet. Talk about preposterous deus ex machinas. Samar, his shadow, is, um, developmentally challenged, which makes the second half of the film a combination of Fast and Furious and Rain Man. Throw in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for the ending: Sahir, with nowhere to go (literally: he's on top of a dam), offers to surrender, provided that Samar, who's in love with Aaliya, goes free. Sahir surprises us with what he does; Samar surprises us even more. Somehow, justice is served all around: Sahir and Samar avenge their father (the bank's totaled) while Jai and Ali have, in a matter of speaking, got their men.
See the film for Khan's muscular existentialism and his effective handling of two roles; for the touching core story; for the dance numbers, including a fascinating angry stomp number. See it for the very long chase scenes, even if you now know how Khan manages, until the very end, to escape. See it for the love of two brothers, the way they honor their father, and for Samar's awkward courtship of Aaliya. And see it for Kaif's circus performances; the circus parts of the movie are really a movie in itself. Just don't expect it to make sense, because it doesn't. All's not lost though because circuses, which jump from spectacle to spectacle, don't either.
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