Dhoom 3 – That Time Zurich Was in Chicago

Supercop Jai Dixit and his partner Ali are facing off against their biggest challenger yet: A magician turned bank-robber who’s exacting revenge on people who have wronged him. The mission takes the two policemen out of Mumbai and puts them in Chicago. Somwhere in the mix: Zürich Hauptbahnhof, Zürich Airport and the Verzasca dam. And amidst all that is Urs Inauen, Swiss Stuntman. Before we get going, there might be some explanation needed. This is Dhoom 3. There have been two Dhoom movies before this. The movies are only loosely connected, but well worth the watch. Basically, the story goes as follows.

An Amazing Franchise That’s Never Heard of Physics.

In Dhoom 1, a gang of bikers rob various high-profile targets around Mumbai. But the police can’t catch them. The crooks – led by the dreamy and gorgeous Kabir (played by John Abraham) – were just too fast and too smart.

Kabir (middle) started the tradition of the pretty villain

Kabir (middle) started the tradition of the pretty villain

To still get the robbers, Detective Jai Dixit (played by Abhishek Bachchan) enlists the help of bike-racer Ali (Uday Chopra) who also sells bikes on the side that may or may not have been stolen. Unbeknownst to both, the two of them are a team for life. Jai being the hardass no-nonsense cop and Ali being the more human of the two, falling in love with every woman he meets and being a bit plucky every now and then. Dhoom was a huge success. Sequels followed. In the second part, Jai and Ali leave the country to hunt a criminal only known as A. Once more a robber, A. is known to do impossible heists. In his introductory scene, A. steals the crown of the Queen of England in a physics-defying action scene that has parachutes, snowboards, trains, guns, harpoons and disguises. Here, watch it yourself:

After seeing this, you see what Dhoom is about. It’s got little to nothing to do with actual physics but the action is thrilling and the bad guys are more sympathetic than the goodies. In the third part, Jai and Ali are called to Chicago, where a man who has the ability to be in two places at once and rides the most badass tricked-out superbike ever robs banks. Which brings us to this movie.

Dhoom 3 – The Movie

To properly be able to evaluate what you’re in for, here’s a trailer.

The bad guy this time is played by Aamir Khan, one of the biggest stars to come out of Bollywood in the past twenty years. And, frankly, he steals the show. With little plot to actually go on, the movie relies on the performance of the actors. While Abhishek Bachchan delivers his Jai more stoic than ever and Ali is goofier than ever, even going as far as to admit that his brain is like a raisin (“Small, but sweet”, he says), our duo of heroes delivers little in the way of new elements to the movies. In fact, you’ll probably recognize the story or rather elements of it from other movies, in addition to the fact that the movie’s been shot in some of the same locations Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was shot and borrows from that movie’s visuals occasionally. Want an example?

Does this view look familiar?

Does this view look familiar?

Does it look familiar now?

Does it look familiar now?

Anyways, Aamir Khan. He steals the show. No questions. He portrays the villain of the story with enough smugness to make him a very badass character. There’s not much depth to him other than him being the orphaned child of a circus director with a grudge and insane skills. Funnily enough, as badass as he is, it’s not until the end-credits where he really gets to shine. Stellar performance right there. And you know who else outdoes themselves? The people who never get seen, the ones who don’t have big names. The ones who risk life and limb for our entertainment. The stuntmen.

The Stunts of Dhoom

The people who really shine in this movie are the stuntmen. The Dhoom films are very physical films by nature, using very little CGI and if only to disguise the harnesses and cables that are attached to the performers who get dragged and pulled around on pulleys and winches. And in this movie, the stuntmen prove that their job is truly something to be in awe of. Among countless nicely choreographed fistfights, we get the following:

That is a real motorbike jumping over real people behind real policecars. Impressive, huh?

That is a real motorbike jumping over real people behind real policecars. Impressive, huh?

  • A chase scene that sees a stuntman ride a 243 kilogram heavy BMW K1300r on a metal wire. You know walking a tight rope? This is just that. With a quarter of a ton of motorcycle under your arse.
  • A chase scene with a Tuktuk that proves that a Tuktuk is everything but a clunky piece of junk.
  • Numerous, numerous aerial acts.
  • A man running down the side of a building.
  • A man jumping off a bridge on a BMW K1300r.
  • Hundreds of jumps on bikes at high speeds as well as wheelies and stoppies.

And if you look closely, you can see how it’s been done. Maybe the stuntman didn’t cross the railway lines as a train was approaching on a metal tight rope, but you can see the special wheels and the deflated tyres on the bike that makes the driving on the rope possible. The great finale of the movie takes place at the Verzasca dam in Switzerland. For all those who don’t know what this is, this is it:

Verzasca Dam - Made to throw people off of

Verzasca Dam – Made to throw people off of

So let’s assume that you’re a moviemaker and you’ve got this dam for a set. What do you do with it? You throw people off it. To make sure that you kill neither your stars nor any other performers of the movie, you need stunt-riggers and stuntmen. In Switzerland, the premiere address for high-profile stunts is Oliver Keller’s company K-Stunts. They were in charge of the stunt-rigging and the risky shooting of the dramatic scenes for the entire movie, not just the shooting in Switzerland. In fact, Keller was, according to stuntman Urs Inauen, responsible for the Indian movie crew coming to Switzerland in the first place. Joe Dryden and Tony Carbajal were the stunt-doubles of our heroes, while there were countless people acting behind the scenes to ensure that even riding a bike one a tight rope and the like did not cost anyone’s life. But, to give away what exactly the scenes at the Verzasca dam are would be spoiling the grand finale of the movie. To convince audiences that there are indeed people jumping off the Verzasca Dam, there needs to be someone who actually makes the jump. That man was Urs Inauen, Swiss stuntman. For the stunt, he had to do extreme things. Repeatedly: «I dropped down the entire height of the dam about twenty times, carrying an ArriAlexa», he says. The ArriAlexa is a professional camera that weighs at least eight kilograms. He also was one of the SWAT-Agents that accompanied the police on their final raid in the movie. Also, in case you’re interested to do the breathtaking stuff that the stuntpeople do in Dhoom 3, K-Stunts is offering a course in summer called StuntSquad.ch. Among the instructors are Joe Dryden, who did most of Aamir Khan’s stunts, Kristian Hilton and Urs Inauen, both of whom also worked on the film. The stuntmen will teach all those who are interested how to do some of the insane stuff you see in the movie.

The Chicago that is Actually Zurich

Armed with the knowledge that the movie was partially filmed in Switzerland, you will see a lot more of the country when you look for it. Here’s a list of what we’ve spotted:

  • The airport they arrive in is actually Zürich Kloten. This is most notable after they’ve left the building and a Postauto drives through the background. It’s labelled “Chicago Public Transport”, but they’re not fooling anyone. Especially since there’s a big Swiss flag waving in the far background.
  • There are some city shots that are very obviously set in Zürich.
  • When Jai and Ali seem to be beaten and walk towards their train that is supposed to take them back to the airport, they’re walking through Zürich Hauptbahnhof past the Burger King. They stop right before they would have to avoid the escalators that go down to the lockers.
  • When Jai and Ali decide that – screw it – they’re going to take down the circus people in what Jai dubs “Operation Asskicking”, they have their big hero walk. On one of the platforms of Zürich Hauptbahnhof. There’s even a big SBB-Logo visible on the train that passes them.
  • Obviously, when you drive out of Chicago and turn left, you’re not going to end up at the Verzasca dam.

We might get back to this and deliver screenshots once the movie’s out on DVD, but for now, you’ve got to believe us, add to our list if you’ve spotted more of Switzerland, or go see it yourself.

The Verdict

Dhoom 3 is a fun ride. Sure, the story is neither very original nor very creative, but the bad guy played by Aamir Khan as well as the stunts make the movie more than just enjoyable. Also, if you’re from Switzerland, you’ll enjoy it even more, because parts of the movie were shot in this country and you might recognize them. Hopefully, there will be a sequel, because the movies’ signature song “Dhoom Machale” (Dhoom translates to something like Boom! or Bam! and “Machale” is “let’s make” or something. Put together, it means “To leave a lasting impact”) could not be more true. “But”, I hear you say, “I don’t know that song.” Well, now you do:

About Dom

Possessing nigh-encyclopaedic knowledge when it comes to comic books and movies, Dom is one of the co-founders of the Uncanny Book-Club. He also enjoys movies, and going to the cinema.

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