Monday, December 29, 2008

"Slumdog Millionaire"

by guest reviewer Josh Valentine

Is America ready for Bollywood? With filmmakers like Danny Boyle integrating Bollywood styles with his own terrific, seasoned style in his new film “Slumdog Millionaire,” cultural cinema desegregation is not the final answer in modern filmmaking – it is the beginning of something new. Without a doubt, Boyle’s new work is a masterpiece, proving he is one of our greatest directors of this generation.

“Slumdog Millionaire” is the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a young man under suspicion after a winning streak on India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” In America that show has become somewhat irrelevant (is it even on anymore?) but for Jamal, the show means everything. Not for the money, but for his one and only love Latika (Frieda Pinto) who he feels he can win by appearing on her favorite program.

We learn that Jamal has lived a very interesting life - one might consider a sometimes dangerous life. But for Jamal this life has taught him the answers he needs to become the man he is destined to become. Coincidentally, those answers are the strangely yet inventively the answers to the questions he is asked on the television program. First-time Boyle collaborator Simon Beaufoy (the Oscar nominated writer of “The Full Monty”) intertwines beautifully the story of Jamal’s fruitful life and the questions on the program to paint the intriguingly poignant story of his main character’s growth. It’s genuinely refreshing to see film narrative portrayed in such an original way, and Beaufoy’s script is simply one of the best this year.

While Beaufoy’s script has not gone unnoticed in critics’ circles, something that may be missed is the strong performance of Dev Patel as Jamal. His portrayal is strikingly profound and at the same time ultimately inspiring. Patel has a wondrous quality in his eyes when he shares scenes with Pinto’s Latika. We can see the yearning and true love of his character – an honest performance by a young man who has the potential for bigger and better things.
This is the second coming-of-age film to impress this year (the first was “The Wackness,” although that film did have a larger amount of detractors), although its crowd pleasing nature is no surprise. With some of the better films of this century under his belt such as “28 Days Later…,” “Millions” and last year’s sci-fi opus “Sunshine,” Boyle has proved himself the forerunner for best director of the past ten years. With “Slumdog Millionaire,” Boyle chose to find yet another film style to re-invent. It’s certainly a stronger film in terms of coming-of-age than “The Wackness” (although Jonathan Levine’s debut was an excellent showing of early nineties indie grit) and affirms that Boyle has the uncanny knack for outshining his colleagues.

This will be Boyle’s second film to be honored by Oscar nominations (his drug film “Trainspotting” was nominated in 1997), most likely in the adapted screenplay and best picture categories, and one can only hope the Academy will enjoy the film as much as audiences. It’s a grand piece for Boyle, who again demonstrates his ability to take something that he loves (film) and illustrate it in new and exciting ways. One of the strongest films of the year, “Slumdog Millionaire” should be at the top of your must-see list.


"Slumdog Millionaire" won Best Picture, Danny Boyle won Best Director, Simon Beaufoy won Best Adapted Screenplay, Anthony Dod Mantle won Best Cinematography, Chris Dickens won Best Editing


Reel Inspiration said...

Hey, Josh,

Thanks for your review of "Slumdog Millionaire" and your thoughts Danny Boyle's work.

I'm not sure if I saw Jamal's story arch as clearly as you did. It seemed that he showed love and loyalty for his brother and friend from the very beginning. His life experiences certainly didn't teach him to be honest or loyal. He is honest and loyal despite life's hard lessons.

This is a story of two brothers on parallel paths, but one chooses to follow his destiny and the other veers to the darker side. It illustrates how even the most terrible and horrific experiences can lead to good - if you stay on the path. It is about the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal

Robin Farmer said...

Nice review.

I believe both boys were true to their nature. One was "ruthless" from the start, maybe because he was older and needed that toughness to survive. The other, more gentle. In terms of character growth, there wasn't much of a departure for either one by the end, but that's a minor quibble. I LOVED the film, at turns horrifying and lovely. A true gem and nearly brilliant.

It did so much, from providing squeamish insight into the lives of the poorest children to promoting understanding why Dell call centers staffed by Indians isn't such a bad thing. (I just wonder how many "slumdogs" get those jobs?")

It OUGHT to win every award it's nominated for.

Robin Farmer