Now playing in select cinemas on 12 November
“Slumdog Millionaire” is a must-see film this fall from “Trainspotting” director Danny Boyle. The movie begins with Jamal Malik – a poor, eighteen year-old orphan from Mumbai’s slums – on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” He is just one question away from winning the grand prize of 20 million rupees. On the eve of the big show, however, Jamal (Dev Patel) is arrested for cheating. Throughout the night the corrupt police question Jamal – how could a kid from the the streets who barely went to grade school know so much?
What unfolds is the story of Jamal, his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal), and Jamal’s love interest Latika (Freida Pinto). Each known answer’s explanation brings a flashback to Jamal’s past. This may sound choppy and disjointed but it is done flawlessly. Scenes from the past are often bathed in an afternoon light – though the scenes are far from soft or nostalgic. Jamal and his brother Salim were orphaned after their village was attacked for its ties to Islam. As a result, Jamal, Salim, and Latika roam the streets, doing whatever they can for money and food. They beg, sing, guard public restrooms, even give tours of the Taj Mahal. In their childhood, they’re all pretty friggin’ adorable, but hints of Salim’s inner demons come to the surface now and then. By early adolescence Jamal has lost his brother and Latika to one of Mumbai’s most dangerous gangs.
“Slumdog Millionaire” is part mystery, part adventure, and part love story. The use of upbeat, drum-filled music during chase scenes in trains, train stations, and through the streets of Mumbai makes the movie thrilling rather than frightening (which it has the potential to be). That being said, there are some nail-biting scenes, but nothing lasts too long. Playing Jamal, Patel is wildly charming and convincingly earnest. Pinto, who plays Latika, is strikingly beautiful but not as convincing – she’s supposed to be hardened by her rough adolescence but hardly comes off that way.
In the end, though, Boyle’s latest film is a triumph. There’s just enough light to compliment the dark, enough kitsch to compliment the grit. Be sure to stick around for the closing credits, too. They’re done Bollywood style and totally worth watching.