Monday, December 29, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) - Danny Boyle & Loveleen Tandan

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Directors: Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan (co-director: India)
Writers: Simon Beaufoy (Screenplay) and Vikas Swarup (Novel)
Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Anil Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla
Jamal Malik is one question away from
winning twenty million rupees.
How did he do it?

A.) He's lucky.
B.) He's a genius.
C.) He cheated.
D.) It is written.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) opens with this question presented to the audience. The film then takes us on a journey through Jamal's life so we may learn the true answer. Is it possible that a young man from the slums of India could get to the last question of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? when so many educated doctors and lawyers have failed before him?

I must admit that when I first heard about this film I was a bit skeptical. The plot just didn't really seem that exciting to me. A young man telling the story of his life in order to explain how he knew the answers on a game show? That just didn't seem like enough to carry a movie to me, especially when you take into account that I never did like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? anyway. The more I heard about it though, the more interested I became in seeing it. Everyone was singing its praises and Danny Boyle has not disappointed me before so that was enough to convince me to see it.

I am very glad that I did decide to go see it. I was completely blown away by the film. I absolutely fell in love with the characters and was amazed by the journey undertaken by them. Even the characters that were not likable were at least extremely interesting to watch. You get to see Jamal grow up with his brother Salim and their friend Latika through three major parts of their lives. In every part of this story, no matter the age of the characters, I was completely drawn into their lives. I felt happy for them when they were able to be happy and together. I felt sad when something tore them apart and I felt downright horrified at some of the things they had to go through. The actors at all three age levels were able to bring these characters to life in a wonderful way.

The story opens with Jamal being brutally interrogated after it is suspected that he is cheating on the game show. After he does not confess they sit him down with a tape of the show and have him explain how he knew the answers to each of the questions. What follows is a series of interconnected vignettes, each corresponding a question being asked of Jamal on the game show. I actually enjoyed this story telling technique a lot more then I thought I would. I thought it would end up being a somewhat forced plot device but it served the story extremely well and ended up being one of the most unique ways I've seen of telling a story.

One of the reasons this story telling technique works so well is because of the main theme of the film. Destiny plays a major part in this story, everything that happens to Jamal happens for a reason and it all leads up to this one point in his life. What is it that Jamal is destined to do? Well, I can't tell you that. You will just need see the movie to find out.

But, just because the movie is about destiny don't think for a moment that you know what will happen in the end. Destiny can be a funny thing and it leads Jamal through quite a bit of trouble in his life. Will Jamal win the money? Will he lose it all? Is it even that important? These questions will have you bundled up in a knot of tension for the last 30 minuets of the film wondering what is going to happen.

On top of the wonderful story and all the great actors that bring it to life the film has many other things going for it. The cinematography is completely stunning, even when we are seeing the ugly side of life the shots still manage to be beautiful. The sound track and musical score fit so perfectly with the film and really help to pull you into it. The only real complaint I have about the film has to do with editing. Towards the beginning of the film Danny Boyle really does some hyper editing that I just don't think works that well. I understand he was trying to portray how hectic and confusing some of the things going on really were but I think he overdid it just a bit at some points.

Overall, everything about this film is absolute top notch film making. Even a cynic like me that doesn't buy into any form of destiny was able to be completely engrossed by the film. Any thoughts about whether or not the chain of events that occur is plausible should be pushed aside and the film should just be enjoyed. When destiny rears its head implausible things will happen. As long as you love a good, character driven story then this film should completely pull you in just as it did me.

Rating: 9/10

**Personal Note: Seeing this movie was part of a dinner and movie night with Shaw-girl. However in a strange turn of events that I am sure involved some paradox being created through several universes colliding, I ended up doing the cooking. I broiled up a couple of nice steaks and some red patatoes we got from Trader Joe's and they turned out delicious. Check it out over at Adventures in Shaw.

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