Written by Simon Beaufoy
Directed by Danny Boyle
Running Time: 2:00
for violence, disturbing images and language.
Slumdog Millionaire was an entertaining and brilliantly shot film that wasn't the best film of 2008 (for me) but was certainly in the top 5.
Young Jamal Malik is on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire... he is on the precipice of winning it all when the show comes to an end for the day. The host of the show, jealous at the attention Jamal is getting and thinking Jamal must be cheating, has him arrested. The police inspectors work him over, asking him how a slumdog from Mumbai could possibly know all the answers. Question by question, Jamal recounts a story from his past which explains how he knows all that he does. We go from Jamal's childhood, where he was forced onto the streets to fend for himself with his brother Salim after his mother is brutally murdered. He meets Latika, the girl of his dreams and is taken in by a seemingly nice man who turns all the kids into beggars. Time after time Jamal has to face hardships but through it all the love he has for Latika carries him through... which leads him to his final destination, trying desperately to find her once again so they can live happily ever after.
As I said, I didn't think Slumdog Millionaire was the best film of 2008 - that honor goes to Wall-E - but it was definitely in the top 5 of the year. While I didn't fall in love with it like many others, I was truly fascinated by it. Besides taking place in India, what connected me to the movie was that I saw it twice - once with my mother and again with my father. It was one of the rare times that both my parents were taken in by a movie to the point that they raved about it afterwards. Both of them grew up in India and while I don't believe they had to live in the same kinds of slums that Jamal did, they certainly knew what the slums were like.
The film is a directorial masterpiece and definitely deserved this Academy Award. To be able to reign in untested actors and still allow them to explore these complicated characters on their own was a tremendous accomplishment. At the same time, director Danny Boyle was able to showcase both the disturbing conditions that still exist in many parts of India and the beautiful parts of the country and the people. The colors in the film are magnificent, even though the film itself feels very raw. You're constantly taken right into the middle of the action and feel like you're on the streets with the characters. The opening sequence with the police chasing after the kids through the slums has to be one of the, if not the best, sequence from a film in years.
If a film only looks good, you don't have enough to sustain it. What makes this film even better is that you have these unknown actors who do a tremendous job throughout the film. The film is unique in that it shows the main three characters at three different times in their lives and use three different actors. The younger versions of Jamal, Salim and Latika are extremely sweet and likeable and that right there brings you into the film and never lets you go. If they had chosen three actors who were offputting the rest of the movie wouldn't have mattered. But because you immediately like these three and for all their faults (especially Salim's) you still root for them to survive and excel. The 'middle' versions of the three are a little raw but still passable. And the older versions are amazing. Dev Patel and Friedo Pinto have huge careers ahead of them because they take the hardships their characters suffer in the past and incorporate them into their current selves, but still have that glimmer of hope inside. You can see in Patel's eyes how, no matter what happens to him, he wants (needs) to find Latika and save them both. You really and truly want these two to live happily ever after.
The DVD has a few extras on it, including two commentary tracks and a dozen deleted scenes. There was also what amounted to a music video set to the Academy Award winning 'Jai Ho' which recounts the entire movie in about 5 minutes. And then there was a making-of documentary that was easily the highlight of the DVD. Watching the filmmakers recount what they went through to make this film was extremely entertaining and definitely worth the price of the disc.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, Slumdog Millionaire is a must-own DVD because it is surprisingly rewatchable. You pick up little things upon second and third viewings and each time you feel just a little closer to Jamal and his search for true love.
Netflix DVD Rentals. Only $4.99 a month. NO LATE FEES; Free Shipping. Try for FREE!