You can also see this review over at The Exception Mag.Let’s just get this out of the way right now, Slumdog Millionaire is one of the Best movies I’ve seen this year. In fact to say it's one of this year's best is an understatement because the fact its it's one of the best movies I've seen in several years. There’s a reason its at the top of everyone’s Best of List, it’s one of the most poignant love stories I’ve seen in a long time. Now that that’s out of the way let move on to the review.
Most directors have a certain niche, Wes Anderson does quirky character driven dramadies, Robert Altman made movies with large ensemble casts, Quentin Tarantino makes ultra-violent films with lots of talking, and Uwe Boll consistently makes worthless drivel. Then there are that have two categories of movies, like Steven Spielberg who usually makes big blockbusters or smaller character films. But there aren’t many like Danny Boyle. Boyle seems to jump all over the map, be it a drama about drug addicts (Trainspotting), an adventure thriller (The Beach), one of the best zombie flicks of the last decade (28 Days Later) an incredible small character drama (Millions (A Must See)) or a special effects laden sci-fi movie (Sunshine), all his movies seem to have only one thing in common, how different they all are.
With Slumdog Millionaire he switches gears yet again and brings us the story of one man’s life and his one true love. As the movie opens we find out that Jamal is one question away from winning 20 million rubies on India’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” We also quickly learn that he’s in police custody as they think him a cheat. But why would anyone think a smart kid winning on a game show is a big deal? Because Jamal is a nobody, he was orphaned as a small child and was forced to steal and con his way through life on the streets as a young boy. Now Jamal has gone straight and works serving tea at a phone center (you know the place your call goes to when you call any customer service number in the states) but he’s still just a kid from the slums in the eyes of the public. And if a doctor or lawyer can’t make it past 20,000 rubies how can a kid with no formal education win the top prize.
And so Jamal begins to tell his life story and how each small part of it has lead him to the answers. But the movie is much more than just questions and answers it is also a one of a kind love story between Jamal and Latika, and the story of how different two brothers can be and yet still care for each other. The movie is simple, but it works so well in it’s simplicity. It’s a simple plot device that works well to effectively tell a beautiful story.
All of the actors so a phenomenal job but the movie really lies on the shoulders of Dev Patel, who portrays the older Jamal, and draws the audience in and makes them care for Jamal.
And I be remiss if I did not at least mention how beautiful the movie is. Shot in India the movie is filled with the most beautiful landscapes and shots. It says something that even in the dirty, filthy slums one can see a semblance of beauty. Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography combines perfectly with the music by A.R. Rahman to make a rich feast for the senses.
As I said before this movie has been on almost everyone’s Best of Lists for the year and I think there’s a reason for that. It’s because the movie brings out the “best of” the human emotions. It’s a movie about compassion, love, and hope. It’s about the love between soul mates and the love for a brother who constantly fails you. But mostly it’s a movie about hope, hope that you can be with the one you love, hope that people can change, and above all hope that you can rise above your circumstances.
And I think it’s this hope that leaves you feeling so good when you walk out of the film (although the dance number during the credits doesn’t hurt either). The movie leaves you with a feeling that you too can be a better person, can rise above your circumstances, and show compassion for others. For this reason it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen these past few years.
Slumdog Millionaire is based on the book Q&A by Vikas Swarup, it’s in stores now under the movies title. I recommend you pick up the book if you enjoy the movie, or even before you see the movie.