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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Hi everyone! I'm starting out 2009 with a review of a movie that was released in 2008. I was so impressed by it, however, that I thought it deserved a review, however late.

Slumdog Millionaire, the latest effot by director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Sunshine) is a hugely entertaining modern-day fairy tale set in the slums of Mumbai, India. The story centers around Jamal (Dev Patel, whom you might recognize from the BBC series Skins), an eighteen-year-old kid of humble means who gets a chance to be on India’s version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. He does well—so well, in fact that he arrested on suspicions of cheating. Stuck in a police interrogation room, he tries to explain how he knew the answers to all those questions. Each question leads to a flashback sequence of Jamal’s childhood, from his beginnings as a poor but happy street kid to the tragic death of his mother and his struggle to survive on his own with the help of both his older brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail) and his true love Latika (Rubina Ali).

Walking in, I was concerned that the narrative structure would get old fast. I was pleasantly surprised, however, as Boyle manages to play with time and use montage in a way that keeps the action going without the film ever feeling stilted or regimented. Most of the scenes, particularly the ones depicting the chaos and momentum of Mumbai (population nineteen million), crackle with raw energy. The performances, especially Patel’s, feel authentic and unselfconscious. The screenplay, adapted by Simon Beaufoy (The Fully Monty) from Vikas Swarup’s novel, makes few missteps and clips along at a good pace. The highlight, however, is probably the score, arranged by famous Indian composer A.R. Rahman and featuring the work of British hip-hop artist M.I.A. As soon as I got home I bought the soundtrack off of iTunes and if you have even a passing interest in Indian pop you should, too. It’s not too often that I see a film that instills me with joy without leaving me feeling manipulated, but Slumdog Millionaire succeeded in spades; it is weet without being saccharine and emotional without being maudlin. For a taste, check out this clip below:


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