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Slumdog Millionaire


Directed by

Danny Boyle

 Slumdog Millionaire Poster

Review by Todd Plucknett


Danny Boyle’s new film Slumdog Millionaire has already made its mark on the Oscar race. It has captivated audiences worldwide with its charm, appeal, and astonishing visual beauty. Danny Boyle has finally crafted his masterpiece.

The story revolves around Jamal (Dev Patel), a young man who is competing on an Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, going for 20 million rupees. He is a poor 18 year old kid from the slums of Mumbai with little education. Astonishingly, he is able to look back through his experiences and get semi-positive answers or just very educated guesses for the answers to the questions. He gets all the way to the final question when the episode runs out of time. This is told in parallel fashion with two other stories. One is what takes place after he gets to the final question, in which the arrogant host (Anil Kapoor) gets two men to torture and interrogate him to find out how he is cheating. They try to beat the truth out of him, but Jamal will say nothing. They later go and put on a recording of the previous episode, in which Jamal is forced to explain how an uneducated boy from the slums can come off like a genius and know all the answers.

The third parallel story is Jamal telling the stories of his childhood. Jamal, his brother Salim (Madhur Mittall), and their lifelong friend Latika (Freida Pinto) were put in a torturous orphanage, in which Salim was trained to become part of the leader’s operation. They eventually escape, but heartbreakingly leave Latika behind. They wanted to be “The Three Musketeers”, but she instead had to stay and basically play servant to the head of the orphanage. Following this, Jamal and Salim make a living for themselves riding on trains, stealing goods, and then selling them. Jamal finally convinces Salim to go back and rescue Latika, which is where all of their worlds begin to unravel. She eventually becomes a servant of sorts to a gangster, Salim becomes a high-ranking member of the crime organization, and Jamal becomes an attendant at a call center, which he uses to try to locate the other two. Watching these characters at different stages in their young lives is simply exhilarating to watch.

The acting in the film is excellent, especially from first-time actor Dev Patel. He is phenomenal and completely draws the audience in. Younger versions of Jamal are effectively played by Ayush Mahesh Khedekar and Tanay Hemant Chheda. Anil Kapoor is great as the TV host you want to hate. Madhur Mittall, Azharuddin Mohamed Ismail, and Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala make Salim an ever-intriguing character. Freida Pinto is superb as Latika. I have really come to be fond of Irfan Khan as well, who plays one of the officers torturing Jamal. The real stars of the film, however, are the people behind the scenes. Danny Boyle’s direction is phenomenal. How he can mix genres and storylines so effectively without losing any emphasis or impact is admirable and an extraordinary achievement. The screenplay by Simon Beaufoy is perfect and is a near lock for the Oscar. The photography is breathtaking, featuring gorgeous shots of the Indian landscape and eventual development over what was formerly the slums of the nation. The film is also the best edited one I have seen this year. It goes back and forth from storyline to storyline in a way that is not all confusing or convoluted, but in a way that is effective and ultimately exhilarating. The music ties everything together, creating the mood of all the different scenes and forming an atmosphere that is simply dazzling.

There is so much to appreciate in this film. The chemistry between the actors is excellent. Seeing that they are almost all first-timers only creates more admiration to the mastermind behind the film, Danny Boyle. The film is so captivating, thrilling, and sometimes even hilarious. Tracking Jamal’s young and already incredibly eventful life up until the point that he arrives on the show is nothing short of fascinating. The audience feels like they know these characters and like they lived through those past events with them. There will not be a person in the crowd who will not be glued to the screen in the last half hour of the film. As much as I loved the first hour and a half, the last 30 minutes will make your heart pound and almost make you get up and cheer for the young lovable character as he goes for his fortune. That is not the only thing that will pull you in, however. The enchanting romance between Jamal and Latika is ever-present in the back of our minds and the thoughts of the possibility that they could still end up together. The way all this comes together is absolutely sensational, and while it could be considered manipulative, it does not feel that way, mainly because we feel that the film earned its right to be like that. Oh, and stay for the credits. It will be impossible to leave the theater without a smile on your face.

This film is finally the one where Danny Boyle steps outside his usual style and completely envelops his audience in the wonder of his film. It is not pretentious garbage like Trainspotting; instead it is a dazzling and widely-appealing film that will be a hit with whoever sees it. It does not try to create a cult status through camera techniques and disturbing sequences, instead, it uses character development and an irresistible romance to pull the audience in. It is actually a lot like last year’s The Kite Runner, mixed with some elements of films like City of God. It has the dark material, but it also very uplifting. It is sure-fire Oscar-contender, and with the past few years of honoring dark material, this could finally be the light-hearted film that breaks through and wins the top prize. There is something for everyone in this picture, and it will be hard for the audience to not find a bit of themselves in these characters. It is a life-affirming underdog story for the ages, and it should be seen.


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