Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 12/19/08 w/ Additional Edits.
2007's sci-fi drama Sunshine brought Danny Boyle to a genre that he hadn't explored as the director created a film that definitely was unique. Despite a controversial third act that left some viewers and critics bewildered, Boyle continued to move forward. Ever since his return to the spotlight following the high-profile flop of 2000's The Beach, Boyle had been exploring various genres ranging from children's drama with Millions, to the zombie-gore fest of 28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later which he served as a producer and shot second unit. Boyle returns once again to the big screen in 2008 with another new genre exploration as he travels to India and Bollywood for his 2008 drama Slumdog Millionaire.
Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Simon Beaufoy based on Vikas Swarup's book Q & A, Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of a young man from Mumbai who is on live TV playing an Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. Yet, as he's interrogated by police who accuse him of cheating, he reflects on every answer he said on the show in relation to memories of his childhood and the love for a young woman he hoped would see him on the show. A mix of Bollywood and Boyle's kinetic, stylish filmmaking style, it's a film that is truly uplifting and original. Starring Dev Patel, Madhur Mittal, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, and Irfan Khan. Slumdog Millionaire is an intoxicating, intense, and inspiring masterpiece from Danny Boyle.
Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is a former street child from Mumbai who is currently playing on an Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire where he is one question away from winning the grand prize. Yet, he's immediately arrested by authorities, including the show's host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor), who believe that he's cheating. After being tortured, the police's chief interrogator (Irfan Khan) starts to talk to him about every question he answered on the game show. For Jamal, each question and answer lead him to reflect on his young life like the time when he was a young child (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar), he got the autograph of a big-time Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan (Feroz Abbas Khan). Yet, he also would experience the death of his mother (Sanchita Couhdary) during an anti-Muslim raid. With his older brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail), they find a young girl named Latika (Rubiana Ali).
The young Jamal befriends Latika though as the three kids meet a man named Maman (Ankur Vikal) who takes them in where they gain shelter and such. Yet, Salim discovers a dark side to Maman where he's introduced to the world of crime. When Jamal was about to take part in Maman's scheme, Salim creates an escape where the brothers and Latika make an escape but Latika is still taken by Maman. Jamal and Salim begin a life of being vendors in the trains until years later, they are kicked out as they're in the area near the Taj Mahal. Now as teens, Jamal (Tanay Chheda) and Salim (Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala) make a living as unofficial tour guides where they make a lot of money. Yet, Jamal still wants to return to Mumbai hoping to find Latika (Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar) as Jamal wants to live a straight, clean life. Yet, Salim is still intrigued by crime that he manages to locate Latika where he makes an encounter Maman. Yet, Salim manages to get the attention of another crime lord named Javed (Manesh Manjrekar) as Salim claims Latika as his own.
Now years later towards the present time, Jamal works as an assistant in a call center where he finds Salim (Madhur Mittal), who is now a lieutenant for Javed. Salim reveals to Jamal that Latika (Freida Pinto) lives with Javed as he tries to get her to leave. Instead, she couldn't because she is now a prisoner for both Javed and Salim where he decides to get her attention by taking a shot at Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. At the interrogation room, he reveals why he played the game to the interrogator who makes a huge decision for Jamal's future.
The film is a simple tale of a young man trying to get the attention of the woman he loves through a game show. Yet when he gets suspected of cheating, the character of Jamal reveals why he chose those answers which each answer links to a moment from his life. The film is about memory as Jamal reveals why he chose this answer and what link in his life does he have with that answer. Yet, with a show like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, there's three life-lines to choose from as Jamal is given. One of those question that he didn't know, he went to the audience. Another was using the 50-50 where Jamal took a risk. The other involves the call from a friend/family that provides one of the film's climatic moment.
Simon Beaufoy's screenplay definitely moves back and forth from present time to Jamal's memories as a child and his journey as a young man. Yet, its emphasis on memory and a young man's desire to capture the attention of the girl that he loves is a story that is truly inspiring. It's a film that is about the idea of destiny where for Jamal, it's about living a life that is straight and without any kinds of troubles. Yet for his older brother Salim, he lives a life of crime believing that money can bring happiness until he is given a conflict about loyalty. The character of Latika is a young woman who brings a balance to the boys as she delves into conflict in her feelings for Jamal and the world of materialism she's been given from Salim despite his jealousy towards her. What Beaufoy creates is a sense of tension yet at the center is Jamal and how he chooses his destiny with those two people watching him.
While Beaufoy's screenplay is filled with a wonderful structure, character development, and plot devices. It's Danny Boyle's direction that really takes the film to spectacular heights. With co-director Loveleen Tandan shooting several sequences in India, Boyle goes right in front for many of the film's hyper-active Mumbai scenes in its slums and poverty-stricken world. Yet, Boyle creates a style that is definitely colorful and dream-like. With its hand-held camera style and sense of suspense in the film's game-show sequences. Boyle also goes for a range of emotions whether it's something innocent and uplifting in the scenes with the children or something dark in the film's crime and suspense sequences. Yet, Boyle creates a film that is definitely engaging and inspiring that feels complete with a great Bollywood tribute sequence at the end.
Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle creates probably one of the year's best shot films with his kinetic, stylish cinematography filled with an array of colors in many of the film's exterior scenes. Mantle's hand-held work and the way he captures a scene with his camera as all of the action and chase scenes are done with such precision. Mantle's work is by far one of the year's best work in cinematography along with wonderful interior shots in some of the film's present-day sequence with some grainy, digital work. Editor Chris Dickens does amazing work in the film's editing with its hyper-active style without going into speedy, Hollywood-style cutting in its emphasis to capture the action. Dickens also goes for a rhythmic style of editing for the film's back-and-forth transitions from present to past and so on while using rewinds and shimmering slow-motion style for its sense of emotional tone. Dickens' editing is definitely brilliant in its emphasis on style.
Production designer Mark Digby and set decorator Michelle Day do excellent work in some of the film's non-Mumbai scenes with the decay of the orphanage scene, the posh world of Javed and Salim, and the modern world of Bombay. Costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb does excellent work with the film's costumes from the decaying clothes to the kids to the more stylish clothing of the older versions of the main characters. Sound designers Glenn Freemantle and Tom Sayers do excellent work the sound work in creating the tension for the game-show sequences and Mumbai scenes with its on-location sounds.
The music score composed by A.R. Rahman is brilliant with its percussion-driven, Indian-inspired score to capture the energy of the chases along with guitars and strings to accompany the themes of characters and such. With contributions from Sri Lanka singer M.I.A. in a few tracks including the song Paper Planes from her 2007 album Kala, it's an intoxicating, powerful soundtrack that is filled with a lot of traditional Indian and Bollywood music that it's easily one of the year's best work in music.
The casting by Gail Stevens and Loveleen Tandan do brilliant work with the film's casting with small yet memorable performances from Saurabh Shukla as a police sergeant, Sanchita Couhdary as Jamal and Salim's mother, Chirag Parmar and Siddesh Patil as the orphan boy Arvind, Feroz Abbas Khan as legendary Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, and Manesh Manjrekar as crime boss Javed. Ankur Vikal is excellent as Maman, the crime boss disguised as an orphanage leader. Anil Kapoor is great as the game show host who couldn't believe that Jamal is winning due to his background as he's often surprised. Irfan Khan is excellent as the police inspector who interrogates Jamal while being amazed at how those answers were linked to Jamal's life. Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail and Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala are great as the young Salim with Ismail as the young boy intrigued by crime and Gajiwala as the teen Salim who tries to be powerful in his role as the older brother.
Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar is good as the teen Latika who is glad to see Jamal until she is forced to be with Salim in order to save Jamal. Madhur Mittal is very good as the older Salim with his stylish, gangster look as he reveals a conflict into his loyalty to his brother or to the world of crime that he's living with. Rubiana Ali is great as the child version of Latika with her natural, enchanting performance while Freida Pinto is really good as adult Latika who feels conflicted in her imprisoned life and her fear for Jamal's safety as Pinto is just intoxicating to watch. In the triple role of Jamal, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar is great as the boy version with his innocence and ability to just do what's right while Tanay Chheda is also great as the teen version who brings out funny stories as a guide while being devoted to Latika. Dev Patel is brilliant as the adult Jamal who is just a straight-laced young man just wanting to get the attention of the woman he loves as he just links to everything he thinks about with those answers. Patel's performance is exhilarating as he brings a lot of human qualities to a character as he's playing a game that would make anyone nervous.
Slumdog Millionaire is easily one of 2008's best films from Danny Boyle thanks to an inspiring story and Boyle's colorful, cinematic style. Thanks to a great cast of mostly unknown actors, with the exception of Bollywood star Irfan Khan, it's a film that is a true rag-to-riches tale with lots of action, humor, drama, and excitement. Fans of Danny Boyle will no doubt be amazed at what he creates as it's definitely his most exciting and fulfilling film since Trainspotting. In the end, for a film that is inspiring and hopeful, Slumdog Millionaire is the film to see.
Danny Boyle Films: Shallow Grave - Trainspotting - A Life Less Ordinary - The Beach - 28 Days Later - Millions - Sunshine - 127 Hours - Trance - Steve Jobs (2015 film) - T2 Trainspotting - (Yesterday (2019 film))
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