Old 12-21-2008, 05:25 PM
Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Ah, the things we do for love. Some people choose to express it through flowers, chocolates, or with a simple kiss. Others choose to go on a national gameshow watched by millions of people in the hopes that one person in particular is watching. It may seem extreme, but after several years of trying to find the girl he loves, Jamal is feeling lucky.

Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is a young man from the slums of India who goes on their country's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" After getting several questions right, he is accused of cheating and is taken to the police station for interrogation. We learn all about Jamal's childhood and how he knew the answers to most of the questions on the show through flashbacks. In these flashbacks, we learn of his relationship with his brother Salim, played as a young boy by Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, and his relationship with a girl from his neighborhood, Latika, played as a young girl by Rubiana Ali. As his relationship with his brother becomes strained, so does his relationship with Latika. Several years later, Jamal feels his only chance of finding her again is to appear on T.V.

I certainly must say that Danny Boyle has come a long way from his previous movies about drug addicts and sprinting zombies. I thought "Trainspotting" was decent, though I didn't much care for "28 Days Later" or his project before this one, "Sunshine." With "Slumdog Millionaire," Boyle breaks away from all his previous work to deliver a film that is very touching and keeps you on the edge of your seat as Jamal answers question after question in the hot seat.

The story is quite fascinating to watch. The film is set up so that the questions on the show correspond perfectly to the part of his life that we are watching in flashbacks. If you are able to accept the fact that it is a huge coincidence that the chronology of questions corresponds perfectly to the chronology of his life, then it is very easy to get carried away with the flow of the story. The more you learn about his story, the more it makes you want to root for him.

The filmmakers even got the look at feel of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" perfectly. They have the exact same set, the music, and, of course, the same game including the three lifelines. The actor playing the host of the show even gives a great Regis Philbin-esque performance, using many of the same tricks that Regis did on the original version of the show.

Speaking of performances, I was incredibly impressed by all the young actors in this film. We get to see Jamal, Salim, and Latika at three different times in their life, and they are all played by really talented actors who perform their characters so naturally that it feels as though you are simply watching real life occur. Special mention needs to go to Dev Patel as the present day Jamal. He plays his character with such sincerity that you really get the feeling that he doesn't care about the money at all, but, instead, wants to reconnect with the girl he lost track of so long ago.

The screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, whose only other work I've seen is "The Full Monty," brilliant weaves together past and present while throwing in several humorous parts. His screenplay gives us a lot of time to get to know these characters through the use of the flashbacks. We learn a lot about what it took for them to survive to the present day. They were very bright kids and knew how to get by solely on their brains alone, which in turn leads to some of these humorous situations.

At one point, they pose as tour guides at the Taj Mahal, making up the history of it as they go along. When they first get there, one of them even comments, "It must be a hotel or something." They even steal peoples' shoes from where they left them in front of the building and sell them on the street. However, after living this life for awhile, Jamal feels that something is missing and decides to go find out what happened to Latika. Through simple incidents like this, we are not only given time to get to know the characters, but we are also given time to care about the characters, so when things begin to rapidly change for the characters, we feel the emotional impact right along with them.

We are asked a question at the very beginning and end of the film. It goes something like: "Jamal is one question away from winning 20 million rupees, How did he do it? A: He Cheated, B: He's Lucky, C: He's a Genius, or D: It is Written. Even though we are given an answer at the end, I still find it a very difficult question to answer, even after watching the entire film. But, as a friend of mine said, they left out E: All of the Above. 3.5/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 01-23-2009 at 11:06 PM..
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Old 12-26-2008, 11:00 AM

Slumdog Millionaire - RATING: 9/10

Looking at his filmography, I cannot help but be utterly impressed by the wide amount of range and versatility that Danny Boyle has managed to display over the past decade. From drugs and zombies to childhood fantasies and space odysseys, Boyle has certainly imprinted his stellar, jolting, and kinetic foray onto an admirable array of genres and thematic material, be it horror, crime-drama, science-fiction, magical-realism, or exploits into the human condition. With his directorial talents being honed to grander extents within each subsequent effort, it’s only a matter of time before Boyle reaches the peak of his craft and bodies forth his magnum opus – the prime culmination of everything he has encompassed as a filmmaker - a magnum opus which, in time, will arguably be referred to as Slumdog Millionaire.

The film, perhaps even more-so than most of Boyle’s other works, is an absolutely transcendent piece of work that serves as a wondrous marriage of style, culture, and content. It’s simply mind-boggling to experience the grand multitude of levels that Slumdog is able to work on, be it as an enrapturing fable with hints of magical realism, a gritty urban drama, an enduring romance, a fervent love-letter to the culture of India, or a sweeping contemplation upon the evolution of the country over the past twenty years, weaved by social turbulence and economic flux. But within these tautly composed juxtapositions of social commentary, classical fable-like storytelling, and Boyle’s adrenaline-fueled, hyper-realistic style, Slumdog Millionaire is, at its true core, nothing more than a romance of the purest form.

The plot is seemingly quaint and sweetly simple, and yet unravels off of blisteringly engaging feats and turns by the tenfold. Following a mild mannered and uneducated eighteen-year-old young man participate in India’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire may not seem like such a spontaneous crowd-pleaser, but it is the enduring humanity, sympathy, and raw energy that keeps our eyes glued and our sense transfixed from frame-one. And while director Danny Boyle is responsible for that injection of adrenaline that makes the film such a visceral rush of an experience, it is within the struggle and plebian likeability of the modest protagonist in which the film gains its fervent connection with audiences, arguably similar to how Forrest Gump won us all over more than ten years ago.

Indeed, watching Jamal Malik, played to pitch-perfect sincerity by newcomer Dev Patel, endure each grueling moment of the quiz show in order to fulfill the destiny that each and every moment of his life has built up to is a riveting experience. As an underdog story, it is absolutely imperative for us to feel automatic empathy with Jamal, and we undoubtedly do so as we witness him grow up in painful poverty in the slums, undergo grueling tragedy, and come to terms with the concepts of love, brotherhood, loyalty, and most vitally, fate – all against the inevitable social apocalypse and jarring development of his own country. But it is within Jamal’s undying love for the girl of his dreams and the object of all of his affection and compassion since childhood why he is so willing to endure everything to its greatest extent. She is his destiny, and he will do everything in his power to reunite himself with her – including participating in the most popular television show in the nation, using nothing more than all of what he has endured with her and for her. It truly is achingly touching storytelling.

The screenplay, adapted by Simon Beaufoy from the novel “Q & A”, is a tightly woven work that is not only well thought-out in its scope and plot dynamics, but also in its ability to map out the wide array of different forays that film is capable of exploring in terms of storytelling. The story definitely carries the suffusing essence of a fable or modern-day fairy tale that isn’t ashamed at all to give its characters a happy ending, and yet it also leaves just the right amount of drama and realism to make for its sections of grittiness. But again, no matter how many levels the film may be able to work on, it truly is the purest romance imaginable at its heart. The story simply feels as if a helpless romantic, sitting on the balcony of his apartment in Mumbai, decided to write a love-letter to everything he saw below and all of the pains and beauties of life. The end result is one of the most vibrant celebrations of life and love one can ever witness on celluloid.

On the technical end of the spectrum, Slumdog is one of the most awe-inspiring, virtuoso feats I have had the pleasure of viewing all year. The way in which Danny Boyle is able to capture all of these different stages of India, be it through the jarring slums, through the rise of Mumbai, or through the lavishness of Bollywood is staggeringly panoramic, to say the least. Along with his uncanny ability to build ever-thickening tension and distinct atmosphere within each and every scene, Boyle has displayed painstaking talent beyond belief in what is one of the most admirable directorial efforts of the year. Whether it’s the spellbinding, at times even lyrical cinematography, the stellar editing, or the absolutely gorgeous music compiled by A.R Rahman, everything is juxtaposed in order to create an experience that serves as both exhilaratingly visceral and heart-achingly poignant.

In all, Slumdog Millionaire is one of the most memorable movie-going experiences I’ve had the pleasure of having all year. From its bravura technical triumphs to its enduring storytelling, I was simply enraptured by every single minute it had to offer. I related with Jamal, I fell in love with Latika, and when it was finished I wanted to experience it all over again.
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Old 12-29-2008, 02:04 PM
Slumdog Millionaire has been described by many as a joyous hymn to life, and it is certainly a movie story as peer into the life of this poor boy as he grows up with his brother. Danny Boyle does bring a great energetic touch to the film that doesn't let you go until the credits roll. Additionally the actors humanize their character so that we care about the journey. There are some singular great moments in this movie, such as young Jamal going to great lengths to get the autograph of a favorite actor. Or the scene where Jamal or Salim witness the death of their mother.

However, like other Boyle films the ending is marred though not as significantly as 28 Days Later or Sunshine. Still Boyle seems to introduce unnecessary antagonism. Do we need the game show host being so against Jamal? Do we need the unnecessary tension as Salim has to deal with letting Latika go? All this serves to do is take us off the tension that is on Jamal as he faces the final question. Lastly I would've like to have seen the theme of destiny and fate fleshed out even further, particularly given the setting of the movie where the impoverished and well off are side by side in developing India.

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Old 01-06-2009, 06:30 AM
The brilliance of this movie lies in its storytelling; the movie is presented practically perfectly. You're so invested in the main character and the situation he's in that you can't help but watch and see how things turn out for him. The use of flashback is used perfectly, whether you're watching him on the game show or watching his explanations of how he knew the answers. You're emotionally invested in the characters' plights, motives, situations. A really great movie to watch.

Really cool end credits too.
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:54 AM

(Danny Boyle, 2008)

Danny Boyle is a very interesting director. His movies range from hits to misses, and he has delved into just about every cinematic genre imaginable: Trainspotting, Millions, 28 Days Later and Sunshine couldn't be more different; and yet, Boyle seems to have a certain unique touch to his films, a kind of common ground in all of them not quite as prominent as the visual uniqueness of Tim Burton or Wes Anderson, or the common thematic elements of Scorsese or Spielberg, but still noticeable. Slumdog Millionaire is clearly a Danny Boyle film, although it's hard to put one's finger on just what makes it so.

Perhaps it is the frantic energy on display throughout the film; Boyle's previous films are all fast-paced and energetic, and Slumdog Millionaire is an incredibly, frantically energetic film. From its opening interrogation scene, the film grabs a hold and never lets go. The exceptionally potent screenplay by Simon Beaufoy creates profuse quantities of tension and excitement, combining three parallel storylines – the interrogation following the game show, all of the events in the protagonist's life leading up to the game show, and the game show itself – and bounding between them frequently, constructing a fragmented chronology that only steps up the tension. Combine that with the natural tension of a trivia game show such as "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?", and we end up with an irresistible brisk, energetic film.

Boyle goes all-out with his cinematography; Anthony Dod Mantle combines a wondrous, exciting amalgamation of angles, focal lengths, camera movements (mainly handheld), wide lenses and lighting set-ups to showcase and emphasize the natural energy and liveliness of the Mumbai slums where the film takes place. In fact, all of the technical elements of the film come together to create an astonishing palette of life and atmosphere, from the naturalistic costume and set design to the delightfully eclectic musical score by A.R. Rahman featuring a modernistic combination of pop songs, electronica and traditional Indian music. Getting all of these elements to come together and complement one another is a difficult enough task; but with the on-location shoot in the slums of Mumbai and other Indian shooting locations, Boyle's task is made even more difficult. It is an incredible directorial feat to undertake, and that's before counting in the local, non-actor, child cast members who deliver their lines in Hindu, when Boyle himself is English and doesn't speak English. The language barrier is broken and Boyle coaxes out of his cast members, both local and internationally known, wonderful and subtle performances that further reinforces his directorial achievement.

Many people have been hailing it as "this year's Little Miss Sunshine and Juno", the "little, feel-good indie film that could", but Slumdog Millionaire reminded me mostly of the 2002 Fernando Meirelles-directed Brazilian film, City of God. Both films are substantially darker and grittier than any American feel-good indie comedic-drama, and both create a gloomy, coarse portrait of the hardships of local life in the slums, City of God portraying the slums of Rio de Janiero, and Slumdog Millionaire focusing on the slums of Mumbai. It's a daily struggle to survive, and people live in the harshest of conditions; but while the exoticness and apparent difficulty of these lifestyles may throw the average viewer off, the incredible thing is that the people who live in these places aren't only used to them, but seem to embrace them and find the good in situations that seem to the average viewer impossible to live in. Going further, both City of God and Slumdog Millionaire feature two characters whose maturity develops in parallel, with one going down the straight path while the other gets desperately involved in a life of crime, the only outlet for many in the slums. In the former film, these are two childhood friends; in the latter, brothers.

That said, there is one significant point in which the films differ: While Slumdog Millionaire frames its story and characters with a melodramatic plot of hopelessly epic romantic love that transcends the ages, City of God portrays its characters and story with a far more realistic approach. The love story on display in Slumdog Millionaire is romantic and feel-good, but it lacks that realistic, naturalistic punch that City of God carries with it, and ends up preventing the film from reaching the true greatness of its Brazilian counterpart.

Many have been hailing Slumdog Millionaire as the "feel-good film of the year". But in fact, it is far from it: While its final message may be heartwarming and uplifting, most of the film shows us a dark, gritty portrayal of people in our modern world living in the most difficult of circumstances. The exotic depiction of the "real India" as it is referred to in the film is unique and beautiful; frightening and magical; energetic and lively while at the same time shocking and mesmerizing. Boyle gives this depiction an unprecedentedly skillful portrayal, featuring energetic cinematography and featuring wonderful performances from a very diverse cast, many of whom are local non-actors delivering lines in Hindu. And screenwriter Simon Beaufoy has framed this depiction with a wonderful story of a young slumdog winning the grand prize while playing on the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" television game show program, his knowledge of the answers to the questions deriving from his various, colourful experiences as a young man growing up in the harshest circumstances Mumbai has to offer.

RATING: 8/10.
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