Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Rated – R
Directed by Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Raj Zutshi, Irffan Khan
There’s a lot riding on Slumdog Millionaire recently, winning awards at festivals, winning critics’ awards, and receiving high acclaim from practically everyone who has seen it. So my expectations were high… probably almost as high to when I saw The Dark Knight. If you haven’t heard of Slumdog Millionaire yet, I sympathize for you. This is an absolutely fabulous film for everyone to enjoy.
Taken place in India, with British director Danny Boyle and a relatively unknown Indian cast, you can imagine how the film will seem like a collision between two worlds. It sort of is. This isn’t a Bollywood film (though the sequence at the conclusion is a homage to them), but more of a modern-day, rags to riches love story set in the slums of Mumbai. Oh yeah, and with a unique spin using the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” as a story-telling mechanism for flashbacks and character development.
Boyle’s a director who really knows how to catch the audience’s attention. Just look back at 28 Days Later where he immediately establishes a desolate London. In Slumdog Millionaire, we see the protagonist, Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), being tortured. It wasn’t the scene I was expecting to see in this movie, especially at the very beginning, but nonetheless it was very effective by arousing my curiosity to the film.
So the story goes something like this. Jamal grew up as a poor child with his brother Salim and through his reckless and tragic past, taps into his life experiences to answer questions on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” He answers question after question correctly and goes further than any contestant has gone before, but this causes the host to accuse him of cheating since he can’t fathom how a slumdog like Jamal is doing so well. For the first half of the film, Jamal is questioned by a police inspector (Irrfan Khan) and explains to him how he knew the answers to all the questions, shown through flashbacks.
The second half of the film takes place during present time from after he’s been released by the inspector, but there isn’t much I can say without spoiling the film. One thing I can say is that Jamal’s intention for going on the game show isn’t to win money. It’s not for the fame either. He goes on the show because he knows the girl that he loves, Latika (Freida Pinto), will be watching. There are complications that are separating the two, but if destiny has its way then they just might get together. But remember, this is a Danny Boyle film… he’s predictably unpredictable.
There is a good amount of subtitles during the movie, but Slumdog Millionaire displays subtitles like you’ve never seen them before. They’re playful and colorful. Also, not a minute is wasted in this film. It has the suspense of a thriller, the romance of a love-story, and the satire of a comedy. On top of the all-around strong performances by the ensemble cast, Slumdog Millionaire is brilliantly directed, edited, and has jaw-dropping cinematography. Oh, and I cannot complete this review without mentioning the great score that complimented the movie, pushing it forward during the action sequences and drawing us in during the drama.
I can see why this film is receiving so much attention with The Academy Awards only a few months away. It’s certainly an Oscar-caliber film. Fox Searchlight has been there before with small movies like Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, and Sideways. Fox Searchlight has another gem on their hands and this might be the studio’s best offering to bring home the gold statue for Best Picture.