Fox Searchlight Pictures/Warner Bros.
Directed by Danny Boyle
Produced by Christian Colson
Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
Based on the novel “Q&A” by Vikas Swarup
Danny Boyle is a director whose work I’ve been following with a great deal of interest. Where a lot of today’s directors find themselves a comfortably commercial niche and stake out their territory in a particular genre, Danny Boyle seems determined to go the opposite route and not let himself get locked into doing just one type of film. He’s done the crime thriller: “Shallow Grave” horror: “28 Days Later” romantic comedy: “A Life Less Ordinary” science fiction: “Sunshine” and gritty urban drama: “Trainspotting”. Even this diversity of film genres didn’t lead anybody to suspect that he had a movie like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE in him. But then again, maybe only a director who won’t allow himself to rest comfortably in one genre could direct a movie like this.
A lot of people have been asking me recently have I seen SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and if so, did I think it lives up to all the hype, all the critical praise and box office success it’s enjoying. Well, I finally have seen SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and I can see why it has been getting all the praise imaginable. But before I go into that, let me give you an overview of the story:
A young man named Jamal Malik (Dev Patel/played in flashbacks by Ayush Mahesh and Tanay Chheda) is cleaning up as a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” In fact, he’s one question away from winning 20 million rupees which is unheard of as nobody’s ever even come close to winning that much. The show’s host (Anil Kapoor) brings the police in, claiming that Jamal must be cheating since nobody’s that lucky or that smart. In flashbacks to Jamal’s youth as a street urchin in the ghettos of India’s cities along with his brother Salim (Madur Mittal/played in flashbacks by Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail and Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala) we get clues as to how Jamal is able to answer all of the questions so accurately. We also see how Jamal and Salim survive their childhood. Orphaned and homeless due to a savagely vicious Muslim/Hindu riot they learn how to become expert hustlers, thieves and con artists. Salim takes to the life just a little too well, growing up to become a ruthless thug. Jamal devotes his life to finding his one true love Latika (Frieda Pinto/played in flashbacks by Rubina Ali and Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar) who along with Jamal and Salim grew up on the streets. It’s this quest for Latika that lands Jamal in the hot seat on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” in a way I wouldn’t dare dream of revealing to those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet. But this quest also brings Jamal into conflict with Salim who has become the chief enforcer of Mumbai’s crimelord.
Does SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE deserve the critical acclaim as well as the ten Academy Award nominations? After seeing this movie for myself I can understand why. I watch a lot of movies. More than is probably good for me and as a result there really isn’t much that surprises me nowadays. Fifteen minutes into 70% of the movies I watch I can tell you how it’s going to end. But like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE’s story is refreshingly intricate and structured in such a way that there is absolutely no way for anybody to guess how the story is going to end. And that’s exciting for me. And as the movie’s box office bears out, I’m not alone. People are tired of seeing the same old stories told in the same old tired ways and you certainly don’t get anything old and tired with SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE does what I want a movie to do to me: take me to places I’ve never seen before on a journey with interesting, fascinating people who are involved in a compelling and exciting story. It also helps the movie a lot that these are fresh, new faces on the screen I’ve never seen before. So I was able to sit back, relax and enjoy watching the story unfold instead of wondering if CGI was used to smooth out the wrinkles on Jennifer Aniston’s cheeks. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is a wonderful addition to Danny Boyle’s diverse body of work and he directs it with a lot of energy, style and downright exhilaration. I strongly urge you to go see SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE if you haven’t already. And if you have, go back to see it again and take somebody who hasn’t seen it with you. They’ll thank you for it.
Rated R: For language, violence and disturbing images
And for those of you sensitive to seeing violence done to children be advised that there’s two or three scenes you may not want to see.