Review: “Slumdog Millionaire”

January 24, 2009 at 1:12 pm Leave a comment

Talented director Danny Boyle proves he can work in almost any genre with the rags-to-riches tale Slumdog Millionaire, set in Mumbai, India.  The recent recipient of the Best Picture Golden Globe, along with Best Director, Slumdog Millionaire is the tale of Jamal, a young boy born into the slums of Mumbai.  Along with his older brother, Salim, and their friend Latika, they experience life at its most cruel, and also its most fulfilling.

The over-arching story of Slumdog Millionaire is that of Jamal competing in India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, but is accused of cheating and forced to prove why he knows the answers to question more ‘fortunate’ people would not be able to answer.  Basically, his life experiences have given him knowledge about random facts that he is eventually is asked about on the show.

Trying to cover the plot of the entire film would get tedious, so suffice to say, it becomes a heartbreaking, and eventually uplifting, story of determination.  Jamal and the three main characters (his brother Salim and love interest Latika) are played by three different actors that cover a 10+ year period of their lives.  Each of the actors are well cast, as each character is distinct, but the actors carry over certain character traits from the previous actor.  For example, Salim has always been a bit of a bully and has harbored a slight amount of jealousy toward his younger brother.  This carries over through the years as each iteration of Salim becomes more and more hostile toward Jamal.

What is crucial to a film that plays like a biopic of someone’s life is pacing.  Danny Boyle, along with his team of editors and co-director Loveleen Tandan, are able to keep the story itself focused on the individual sequences, while making sure the audience doesn’t forget what part of the overall story is being discussed.  The cinematography is also great, highlighting the bright colors that are prevalent in Indian culture.  Also, the sweeping and epic wide shots of famous landmarks like the Taj Mahal (which was actually a set constructed for the film), contrast with the confined spaces of the country’s many slums.

Throughout most of the movie, I kept thinking to myself, “This movies is good, but is it Best picture good?”  Indeed, I was enjoying myself but was also underwhelmed.  Until the last act of the film.  I won’t give anything away, but it’s one of those moments where everything comes together and you find yourself rooting for our hero, whose odds are stacked heavily against him.

In the end, Slumdog Millionaire is another hit for the talented Danny Boyle.  The cast is great (especially the beautiful Frieda Pinto), and the writing is feels sincere with just enough wit.  I’ll be honest and say that it may not be the best picture of 2008, it certainly is one of them.  Heartfelt, inspiring, and occasionally very funny, this film will have you smiling at the end.

8.5/10

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