Slumdog Millionaire: Danny Boyle


by The Great White Gypsy


Bollywood: the final frontier.  Director Danny Boyle has hit the mark in so many genres in his career, it’s never a question whether his new film will be good.  It’s a question of which genre he will attack next.  Romantic Comedy, Horror, Sci-fi, Family, Drama, and Cult Classic.  This year, he has brought us Slumdog Millionaire, and has thus established that he is, indeed, the most talented free spirit in Hollywood. 

Based on the novel “Q&A” by Vikas Swarup, Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamal Malik, a young man from Mumbai who is on a quest to find the girl of his dreams, a girl he left behind.  After years of searching and near misses, he winds up on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” (the India version), not because he wants the money, but because he knows she watches the show everyday.  He gets every question right, to the audience’s delight, and the host’s disbelief.  But before he can answer the last question, he is pulled into a van, accused of cheating, and tortured.  And that is where we meet him.

The first five minutes of the film are somewhat of a blur, jumping back and forth between the game show, the police station, and Jamal’s childhood.  Slightly disorienting at first, it ends up blending very well together, and is actually easy to follow, thanks to editor Chris Dickens (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead).  The film follows Jamal, his brother Salim, and his love, Latika, from the streets to the traffic of Mumbai and back.  From their violent separation from their parents, to their servitude as beggar children, and their adolescence as an intern, a gangster, and a prostitute.  The overall concept of the film is that Jamal is destined to be on the show.  With every question asked, we flash beck to his past and find that the answers were, chronologically, the story of his life and his desire for Latika.

The acting in this film is superb.  There are three different actors playing all three characters at different stages in their lives, and they all fit together in tone and development.  Though there are only one or two recognizable faces here, the newcomers and Bollywood veterans are all solid.  However, as with all his movies to date, two very compelling, well rounded, and developed characters are the music and the environment.

Slumdog was shot all over India (mainly Mumbai, by India co-director Loveleen Tandan),  Even when young Jamal is running from security guards in Mumbai, the camera will pan to a river, a field, a man washing his clothes in a bucket.  It appears random, but it establishes the city, the landscape, as a character, and an instrumental tool in the development of the characters.

The music is not only appropriate, but perfect for the story and the area.  MIA has numerous songs featured in the film (Paper Planes can be heard several times), and renowned Indian composer A.R. Rahman is responsible for an original score that, not only accompanies the characters through tense or lively scenes, but simultaneously establishes a sense of foreboding and nostalgia that, in a film covering three different timelines, is not easy to pull off.

Last, but not least, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography is right on point.  And it should be; he and Boyle have worked on several projects together, and the comfort is evident.

I was enthralled by this film from start to finish.  Every element, every scene, every visual was stunning.  Not only is it one of the best films I’ve seen in 2008, but it’s Oscar season now, and this could be nominated for so many things it blows my mind.  My only other piece of advice: You will stay through the end credits, and you will dance.  Now.

Final Grade: A





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