Dev Patel (left) as Jamal and Anil Tapoor as
Prem, the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" host, in "Slumdog Millionaire", Danny
Boyle's -- and the year's -- best film. (Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures)
THE POPCORN REEL FILM REVIEW/"Slumdog Millionaire"
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire When You've Mastered Jeopardy At Every Turn?
Omar P.L. Moore/November 29, 2008
"Slumdog Millionaire" is the most visually alive film of 2008. It is also
the best -- it gives us hope, fear, triumph, love, sadness and joy -- but most
importantly it entertains. This rags-to-riches tale of a poor-hard-luck
boy in Mumbai, India making a chance appearance on the country's edition of the
world famous quiz-show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" avoids the cliches that
could have sabotaged Danny's Boyle's best film to date.
That said, "Slumdog Millionaire" owes something to "Salaam Bombay!", Mira Nair's
1988 tale of young children's adventures on the streets of poverty-stricken
Calcutta. The film's early energy is infectious and exciting. Simon Beaufoy, who penned "The Full Monty", also writes the script for Mr. Boyle's
film, adapting it from the book "Q&A", by Vikas Swarup. Films about life
in the slums are often apt to romanticize the degradation of the hamlets and
villages they depict (ala "City Of God" to name a recent film) but wisely Mr.
Boyle's film doesn't fall into the trap.
Dev Patel, a London-born actor in his feature film debut plays Jamal Malik, an
18-year-old orphan boy who has lived the school of hard knocks to graduate to
making a chance appearance with an opportunity to make money answering questions
on the "Millionaire?" quiz show. After correctly answering the penultimate
question to win 10 million rupees, Jamal is kidnapped and interrogated by a
police investigator (Irrfan Khan of Ms. Nair's film "The Namesake" and "A Mighty
Heart"), who believes he is cheating on the show. Meanwhile, the only
semblance of family in Jamal's life has been Jamal's older brother Samil (Madhur Mittal), a thorn in his side from childhood.
In an inverse way, they
are a Cain and Abel-like outfit and their contrasting fates in the film are
juxtaposed in an intriguing fashion.
Most central to the film however is Latika (played by debut actress Freida
Pinto), the young girl Jamal has admired and endured plenty of ups and
downs with. Miss Pinto is the film's revelation -- brave, alluring and
convincing in a gritty role. Mr. Mittal gives Samil a manic disposition
that supplies a lot of tension. Mr. Patel has all the self-assurance of a
veteran performer, and his Jamal even has the temerity to spar with Prem, the
"Millionaire" quiz show's patronizing host and producer (played by Anil Kapoor, a premiere
Bollywood actor.) But there's so much more going on beneath the surface of
this colorful film, which has a texture that is rich and authentic as rendered
by Anthony Dod Mantle's stunning cinematography. The film even has time to
celebrate itself in style at the end, adding a flavor its native country will
In the fluid direction of his latest film Mr. Boyle displays a depth of vision,
vitality and purpose not seen in his previous films, though he peppers "Slumdog"
with some of the frenzied unbroken shots seen in prior films like "28 Days
Later" and "Sunshine". While each of his films are different, Mr. Boyle
knows how to direct stories about young children and young adults, or the
evolution of one group into the other. With "Millions" he painted a
refreshingly clear-eyed portrait of imagination and wonderment and here he does
the same. He captured the recklessness and randomness of a young man in
and "The Beach", and here he captures the topsy-turvy world of an orphan.
In "Shallow Grave" he powerfully brought alive a world of previously innocent
youngsters suddenly aware, if not fully culpable, of murderous circumstances.
Here, Mr. Boyle plunges an innocent young boy headlong into growing up and
evolving the hard way, using guile and experience to stay alive. It is
stunning that after last year's astonishingly poor "Sunshine" that the director
could come back with such a profoundly masterful movie, but he manages to.
At times moving, "Slumdog Millionaire" embraces the sweet and the sour, like the
spices and sensations of India itself. Mr. Boyle doesn't do this all on
his own however, he gets massive help from co-director Loveleen Tandan, who
directs many of the sequences in India, providing indisputable realism to the
entire film. Mumbai (formerly Bombay), the world's most populous city at
19 million people, has 19 million stories, including most sadly the fatal mass
terrorist attacks that occurred earlier this week, and for their wonderful,
breathtaking scope of a film, Ms. Tandan and Mr. Boyle make the most of the vast
Ever engaging, never short of surprises, "Slumdog Millionaire" is an engrossing
gem of a film from start to finish.
"Slumdog Millionaire" is rated R for some violence, disturbing images and
language. The film is in English and Hindi languages and in English
subtitles. The film's running time is one hour and 56 minutes. The film has been playing in New York, Los Angeles and San
Francisco and expanded its release on Thanksgiving Day to additional American
Copyright The Popcorn Reel. PopcornReel.com. 2008. All Rights