Review: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

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Where the heck is Regis Philbin?

Screenplay By: Simon Beaufoy
Directed By: Danny Boyle & Loveleen Tandan

Suspense through a maligned, at least in my eyes, game show, what an interesting premise. Slumdog Millionaire is a brilliant film, weaving in and out of the life of Jamal Malik, his brother Salim and the love interest to end all love interests, Latika. Slumdog Millionaire doesn’t sugarcoat life in India in any way, it is very much a country full of the haves and the have not’s. There is no middle ground and Slumdog Millionaire pounds that home in every scene, in every moment. But, that isn’t the strength of the movie. It’s a major plus, but it isn’t the main draw behind the movie.

The love that Jamal feels for Latika is genuine and it is his driving force all film long. It causes him to make stupid decisions, to be brave, to be foolish, and to be very, very human. Also a driving force in the film is the lack of love that Salim holds in his heart and the fact that unlike Jamal, Latika isn’t willing until the very end to allow her love for Jamal to guide her decisions. Amidst all the depravity, loss and terrible images there is the thought and clarity provided by the love that Jamal holds in his heart. It is the one shining beacon in a world full of hurt, a world that none of us want to be in, including Jamal. But, Jamal views his love, not the money he wins, as his ticket out of the poverty, violence, and horrible state of life he finds himself in. But, love isn’t the main strength of Slumdog Millionaire.

The highest point of Slumdog Millionaire, and funnily enough perhaps its only blemish, is the astounding nature in which the film is put together. The interweaving of Jamal’s story with the questions he faces on the game show is handled in deft fashion. There are a few moments that come across as too coincidental, especially the final question, and there is the entire middle train/Taj Mahal section that doesn’t fit within the narrative of Jamal’s back story bearing out in response to a question he needed to answer for the show. However, those are minor grievances in a tremendous film that triumphs in how it is cut together and the way that its musical score flows from every scene. I don’t know if the disjointed nature of the narrative would have been as effective if not for the way it worked off its musical cues. The music wasn’t necessarily powerful, but unlike most movies it melded into the film so that it didn’t seem like the cue that it was but rather an extension of the lives of the characters.

Slumdog Millionaire is a film with a lot of buzz behind it, and it is worthy of all the fanfare. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is a damn great film and a highly original film. It is yet another great film from Danny Boyle, a man that is emerging as a powerhouse director before our eyes. Slumdog Millionaire can be recommended for so many reasons, but most of all it should be recommended for its classical take on love and for its brilliant camera work, direction and use of music. If you haven’t, go see Slumdog Millionaire, you won’t be disappointed.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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7 responses to “Review: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

  1. Frozen Hamster

    Great review. I think the film is even better than you say, but I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. Danny Boyle is very quickly creeping up to be one of my top working directors.

  2. I thought it was great, but I have yet to view a Boyle film I thought was less than great. 28 Days Later… is far and away his best in my eyes, but I still have yet to see Sunshine, so ya never know. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. fivedollarsodas

    You point out that ” Jamal views his love, not the money he wins, as his ticket out of the poverty, violence and horrible state of life he finds himself in,” but don’t you think this idealized projection of love is disturbingly cliché in such an otherwise groundbreaking film?

    I also felt like i was unfortunately snatched from the realism of the film when M.I.A.’s Paper Planes played during one of the train sequences. I was so entrenched in Jamal’s world and hearing that most popular song of the summer kind of took me out of the mood.

    I’ve been looking through your blog and really digging what I see. Check out my Slumdog review if you have a second.

    http://fivedollarsodas.wordpress.com/2008/12/23/an-ending-more-in-tune-with-tone-would-do/

  4. I agree that the love was cliche, but in a movie that was more uplifting in tone than anything else I felt it fit. For a more complex movie I would like a more complete vision of love, but I think the idealized version we were given in Slumdog fit the movie. I can see why you would have issues with it though.

    With Paper Planes I will readily admit to loving that song, and that’s why it didn’t take me out of the movie when I heard it. Upon further viewings in the future when that song isn’t as popular with me or I am more removed from the present day I can see myself not quite vibing with the usage of that song in that particular scene.

    Thanks for the kind words about my reviews, and I’ll be sure to check out your Slumdog review when I have the chance.

  5. Your review made me realize how well the music fit in the movie, a rarity. Thanks for the insight.

    I somewhat disagree with your comment that Salim has no love–at least he saved Jamal from being blinded. That was a heroic moment, and it kept me from hating him despite anything else he did.

  6. You are right, that was an oversight on my part, Salim spent most of the movie denying the love that was in his heart, trying to put out the image of the heartless individual, but in the end that little ember of love that was there shone through.

    Yeah, the music caught me by surprise, I had heard it was good, but I didn’t expect it to be that good.

    Thanks for the comment.

  7. Pingback: Review: Kshay (Corrode, 2011) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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