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Slumdog Millionaire

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Danny Boyle has come a long way since splashing onto the scene with Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. Back then, he was a good director making good films. After Life Less Ordinary and The Beach, he made a jump to sci-fi with the zombie flick 28 Days Later. In 2007, with the release of Sunshine, Boyle became a great director making great films. He proves it again with Slumdog Millionaire, a perfectly crafted masterpiece of love versus money, set in present day India.

Slumdog Millionaire is about a boy named Jamal Malik (played by Dev Patel) who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of the popular game show, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”. After winning 20 million rupees, he’s taken into custody and interrogated by the police who demand to know how a homeless, orphaned, uneducated ‘chai-walla’ (one who delivers glasses of hot Indian tea to nearby businesses), could possibly know the answers to the show’s questions. As they harass and torture Malik, Boyle gives us engrossing stories of his life – an almost incredulous journey that has brought him to this point.

At the heart of Slumdog Millionaire is a love story. Not a melodramatic romance, but rather, a search for love. After witnessing the death of his mother in a riot between Hindus and Muslims in the slums of Mumbai, an orphaned Jamal befriends a young girl named Latika (Freida Pinto), who becomes his self-chosen soul-mate. But shortly after, they are kidnapped and exploited by criminals. Eventually, Jamal and his brother Salim escape, unwillingly leaving Latika behind. Thus begins Jamal’s quest to reunite with his life-long love. A quest that lands him on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”, Latika’s favorite show.

What makes Slumdog Millionaire such a great film is that Danny Boyle creates a parable without it being obvious or preachy. Although penniless, Jamal is not interested in the money; he’s on the show to prove his love for Latika. Boyle’s film is unique by making Jamal’s story a fairytale – every horrific moment of young Jamal’s sad life is preparation for the questions he will be asked on the game show. It is simply destiny and fate, not conscious decisions and choice. (However, there is a twist in the second half of the film regarding his time on the game show that won’t be revealed here.)

This is filmmaking at it’s best. Slumdog is entertaining and insightful. It’s beautiful and it’s moving. Even with the serious subject matter of the background stories, this does not feel like a ‘heavy’ movie. It remains uplifting throughout, in the same way that Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie did. The acting is great all-around, although the buzz behind Freida Pinto is surely based more on her model-looks, and less on her role as Latika, which actually amounts to very little screen-time. Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor (Kapoor plays the host of the game show) are stand-outs, along with the supporting cast, which includes kids from the actual slums. It’s also great to look at. Not since Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay have we seen such a rich, honest portrayal of the underworld in Mumbai (one of the slums shown has a population of nearly two million homeless people). Boyle says he shot the scenes around the Taj Mahal with a Cannon EOS still camera, but you can’t tell.

It should be noted with kudos that Fox Searchlight, the distributor, has been releasing some of the best films around. Searchlight seems to have taken over a role once filled by Mirimax in the 90’s. Like Juno last year, Slumdog Millionaire is an Oscar quality film. Danny Boyle is an Oscar quality director, and this movie will make him ‘A-List’. It’s extremely rare to find such a filmmaker who can so greatly transcend multiple genres in film. The world will be watching to see what Danny Boyle does next.
The Sound Villains
Fresh music, movies, tv, and pop-culture reviews and opinions for a creative generation

this sounds like a great movie, and should do really well at the oscars this year...mark my words.

great review, too!

Very well written I thought, managing to thread the plot around the programme that Jamal is starring in. Great sense of optimism comes through despite being in such a city with it's frenetic blend of extreme poverty contrasting with great wealth, with of course the majority of people just trying to get through the day.

It's also an interesting comment on the modern world being thrust so quickly on top of previous decades of slums. Sad to reflect on the lives of people, specially the children in those shanty towns. Weren't the little kids fantastic? Loved the music, fantastic, and Irfan Khan my favourite Indian actor who seems to make some cameo appearances in lots of films these days, I saw him in The Darjeeling Ltd a little while ago.

Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Yes, when I saw the sad-eyed Khan as the police inspector, I thought of you and The Warrior.
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
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wow christine. now I want to see it.
something witty goes here......

heh Mark, you have me sussed

See it Mack! Ignore the hype, obviously cos when the hype starts then things go a wee bit over the top and you start expecting stupidly marvellous things but this is a lovely film, a comment on life as a struggle and a love story that doesn't give up - Danny Boyle made a great, well rounded film he should be proud of. Loved the dance at the end, reminded me of Kitano's Zatoichi.

First off, excellent review Villains.

This film was pretty much exactly what I imagined it to be after I watched the trailer. Loved it like 99.9% of people who have seen it and it's just a film destined to win a few oscars. Thought the structure was very clever and characters heartfelt. I still think that The Wrestler is the best film of 2009 thus far and that The Dark Knight should get best director and supporting actor honours, but Slumdog and The Wrestler are miles ahead of oscar baiting rubbish like The Reader and another overcooked Mendes drama.

I definitely had to sit through a lot of it until I actually enjoyed it, but it as well worth the wait.

Here's my quick review of Slumdog Millionaire, which I saw on Tuesday.

Slumdog Millionaire

Strip away the language, culture, and ethnicity of its characters, and Slumdog Millionaire could have been written by Charles Dickens. It shows us extreme poverty and tribulation, but focuses not on the misery of its characters, but what they take away from it. They treat their hardships as mere facts of life. How can you curse your lot in life when you so rarely glimpse anything better? How do you reach for something you cannot see?

Slumdog Millionaire is about a young Indian man named Jamal, played by three different actors at different points in his life. They are, in descending order of age: Dev Patel, Tanay Chheda, and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar. Jamal finds himself competing on his country's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" He makes a run at the grand prize by answering a series of increasingly obscure questions. His run is so improbable given his background, that it arouses suspicion, and he is interrogated by a local police inspector who tries to determine whether or not he's cheating.

The inspector demands to know how he happened to know each answer, and Jamal recounts his experiences growing up in a slum with his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail) and his friend Latika (Freida Pinto, Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, and Rubiana Ali). Question by question, Jamal produces one terrible memory after another from his childhood, each of which has seared an eclectic piece of information into his mind. As the coincidences start to pile up, both Jamal and the inspector begin to realize that something larger than either of them is at work.

If one thing about Slumdog Millionaire stands out above any other, it is the way that the film finds beauty in unlikely places. Though Jamal and Salim live in a slum, director Danny Boyle manages to bring a sense of energy and vibrance to their home thanks in no small part to many vivid colors and two Academy Award-nominated original songs. The slum is a quilt-like mash of squalor, color, and chaos, and Boyle allows us to take it all in with some breathtaking aerial views.

The film is set in several points in Jamal's life, and jumps between them to create revelations and tension that wouldn't exist chronologically. Watching the characters grow and change, and seeing how their past experiences inform their actions in the present, lends every scene a heightened sense of importance. We're made to walk in the shoes of people who don't have any, which gives us a stake in how their stories turn out.

Most films that depict so much tribulation would be draining, but Slumdog Millionaire moves along at a brisk, energizing pace. The characters have little time to dwell on the things that have befallen them, and the result is a film that sounds depressing on paper, but leaps from the screen.

Like most great films, no amount of description can convey the feelings it invokes. Like the lives of the people it depicts, it needs to be experienced to be completely understood. At its bottom, this is a tale about how our suffering is as much a part of who we are as our successes, and the rewards of having faith even when the former overwhelms the latter.

Liked your review Yoda, this is one of the two best picture nominees I'm looking forward to seeing.
"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Personally, I found this movie very interesting from the start I liked it allot, and it could be one of my favorite movies of 2008

Celluloid Temptation Facilitator
I just saw this and it is really good. Since I normally don't like most award nominees I was surprised, pleasantly.

The most impressive part is the soundtrack. O Saya and Jai ho, wonderful!
Computer Vision Aides

This is one of the movies I want to see this year for sure!

Firstly, let me say that Villains and Yoda both wrote very good reviews of the film, but I'd really like the thank Yoda for answering a question that's been bugging me since I saw Slumdog Millionaire. Why didn't l like it?

I certainly don't think I was in the right mood when I saw it, but I felt that it went beyond that. It looks fantastic, you can see and hear much of the talent that's been involved with making the film when you see it. The acting, while not uniformally excellent, is certainly good enough and no one's really unbelievable in their part. I loved the structure of the film and thought it was well written. The direction was superb, as was the cinematography, editing and soundtrack. But, for me, the destination wasn't worth the journey.

Maybe it was all the talk of hope, fairy tales and the feeling of being uplifted after seeing it that I heard all about for the previous 2 months. I didn't feel any of that. I felt drained and depressed. It was like a fairy tale, but the 'real' fairy tales, the old Grimm ones, where good wins out and evil dies, but you feel that even though it all turned out ok in the end, the survivors spent the rest of their lives in therapy, never really recovering from their ordeal. At least, they would've if they'd had therapy in the C17th.

Anyway, that's how I felt and I was thinking (dreading) about seeing it again but this time, in a 'better' mood. However, I think that Yoda may've answered that nagging doubt I had and, if he's right, then it's not going to matter what mood I'm in, because I'm almost certain to not enjoy it. It's because it's like Dickens! And he's right, it is and I hate that. More depressing stories that have 'happy' endings.

For everyone else, I'd say go and see Slumdog, I'm sure most of you will really like it. As a film and a piece of art, it's of the highest quality. However, if you don't like Dickens, especially the tone of many of his pieces, then go into this forwarned.

As for me, I'll wait to see this again on dvd. Who knows? Maybe I'll like it more second time around and, surely, it can't make me feel as badly as it did the first time. Can it?

Celluloid Temptation Facilitator

I totally get what you are saying. If I'd paid enough attention to the hype I would almost certainly not liked it as much. I kept myself in the dark as much as possible. I think that helped.

Tragic stories are so not my thing but in this case the characters we most cared for prevailed and that counts for a great deal. When you've been in a war zone, and you find peace together I believe you can sometimes do without therapy.

I think this movie was touching and moving, but it quite simply wasn't my kind of movie. The storyline was fantastic but it was clearly a budget movie. Well done to Danny Boyle though, it was about time Britain braught the Oscars back with us!