Review: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Slumdog Millionaire is this year’s movie that has seemingly come out of no where to become a critical darling. It has been nominated for practically every award in existence and has been on ample Top 10 lists. So why the hype? 

Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), Slumdog Millionaire is stunningly simple story about friendships, family and love.

Jamal Malik, a former street child from the slums of Mumbai, is a contestant on Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. With the odds stacked against him, Jamal has somehow makes it to the final question and now stands to win 20 million rupees. Naturally, Jamal is accused on cheating and is brought into police custody for an interrogation session that slowly weaves the web of Jamal’s past.

We learn about his childhood in the slums, his relationship with his brother, Salim, and his love for a local street girl, Latika. The events from his childhood provide enough clues for Jamal to know answers to the questions.

Jamal is played by Dev Patel, who is best known for his role on Skins, a British teen drama that I love. Slumdog Millionaire has provided Patel with the breakthrough role of a lifetime, earning him a Screen Actors Guild nomination.

There is a risk with Slumdog Millionaire. As a story about India set in Mumbai, Western audiences are likely to become entralled by the film. Especially after the Mumbai terror attacks last months, audiences will go in expecting this exotic tale about India. But Slumdog Millionaire is not an Indian film.

The movie is a typical Hollywood melodrama aimed at hooking an audience in but it ends with a typical Bollywood dance number in order to remind us that this is a movie about India. In many ways, this could be the movie that finally gives Bollywood a mainstream Hollywood audience. But is this a bad thing? Not really, as long as audiences are able to recognize this.

At the end of the day, Slumdog Millionaire is an intense experience; it will literally have you at the edge of your seat. Simon Beaufoy’s script, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography, Chris Dickens’s editing, and A. R. Rahman’s soundtrack all come together to tell this wonderfully romantic story and simple reminder about the power of the human spirit.

I think Todd McCarthy of Variety sums up the film best when he wrote about the film in September. “As drama and as a look at a country increasingly entering the world spotlight, Slumdog Millionaire is a vital piece of work by an outsider who’s clearly connected with the place.”

It is hard to resist and hard to forget the charm of Slumdog Millionaire.

Updated December 2, 2010

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3 thoughts on “Review: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)”

  1. Just hoped, wished, prayed…that an Indian director could have made this but this never is the case from A Passage to India, Gandhi and now Slumdog Millionarie.

    Enjoyed the film a lot. It was amazing to watch Boyle show us a glimpse of our own spirit and a path that our filmmakers never took.

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