Saturday, January 3, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

I knew I couldn't possibly list my favorite movies of 2008 without seeing this film. Not only has it garnered raves from the critics (including appearing at number one on Peter Travers of Rolling Stone's best of list), but Linz McC gave it her seal of approval as well.

Having recently seen several movies (Doubt, Frost/Nixon) where the goodness of humankind is highly questionable, I was touched and heartened by Danny Boyle's sappy little love story.

Okay, maybe "sappy" isn't quite the right word for a film that can be quite brutal and violent (this IS a Danny Boyle movie we're talking about!), but you definitely root for underdog (aka "Slumdog") Jamal to triumph against all odds--to win the million dollars (or more accurately $410,000), to win the girl, to live happily ever after.

Apparently Danny Boyle secretly wants happy endings as well. Despite the bleak Sunshine (which arguably had a happy ending for earth--if not the crew of the Icarus II) and his other grim fare, Boyle pulls out all stops for Slumdog Millionaire--including a Bollywood style dance number at the end.

His affinity for conveying the color and squalor of India was amazing. In that aspect, the film reminded me a lot of the brilliant City of God. Jamal's (a completely sympathetic Dev Patel) interactions with the police inspector (the always wonderful Irrfan Khan) was reminiscent of another favorite film of mine, The Usual Suspects. Indeed, the interrogation is merely a plot device to flashback to vignettes of Jamal's life as his memories provide the proof of how he knew the answers to the game show questions.

From witnessing his mother's brutal murder to landing in a so-called orphanage run by a character who makes Dickens' Fagin look like Mother Theresa, to losing and then finding and then losing and finding again the love of his life, Jamal weaves a colorful and complex tapestry as he relates his tale. Unlike the tapestry woven by Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, Jamal tells the truth.

Boyle's unique sense of style is evident throughout. The juxtaposition of tense game show drama as Jamal sweats it out under the lights against to his torture at the police station, draws us into the story of the 18 year-old orphan from Mumbai poised to win the top prize on India's version of the ubiquitous game show. It doesn't hurt that all the actors and acting is top notch, the visuals and editing are sublime and the soundtrack completely enhances the viewing experience.

I'm happy to see it's up for four Golden Globe awards. Perhaps that will raise the film's profile so that it justifiably gets the audience it deserves. As of now, this little gem hasn't earned what the pitiful dreck of Marley and Me made during its opening weekend.

Talk about a slum dog!


  1. Glad you liked it! I really enjoyed the Bollywood style dance at the end.

  2. After the excruciating and exhausting emotional tension that led up to it, I think we NEEDED that fun little epilogue!

  3. I was thinking the same thing. I want to buy the soundtrack now.

  4. I saw it last night and totally loved it. A few people left the cinema during the film (one woman left during the eye bit). They should have stuck it out.

  5. Yeah, I'm squeamish so I had to look down at my hands at that part as well.

    But it the whole film was beautifully done.