Danny Boyle’s Academy Award-winning film is a visual delight that revolves around three time frames for a young man, whom as the title indicates, appears on a popular game show and relives how is able to know the answers.
Jamal Malik is first seen at a Mumbai police station, enduring pure torture from investigative officers who think Jamal is a cheater. Coming off a near-complete victory on an Indian version of the popular game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, Jamal relives the accounts to the head officer how he knows the answers to the questions when he is accused of fraud.
The film intercuts between three time periods in Jamal’s life. There’s the present, in which he is at the police station giving his case to the head officer. There’s Jamal on the game show, in which the host of the show, Prem, seems both impressed and not happy at the same time with Jamal’s performance. Finally, we learn where Jamal came from and the obstacles of life he and his older brother Salim endure from the time they are children orphaned when their mother is killed to the near present, where Jamal works at a call center and Salim has become a gangster. However, Jamal still remembers and still has feelings for a young woman he met when they were kids, Latika.
Boyle makes good use of the film’s locales and the young fresh cast of the film. While the major characters Jamal, Salim, and Lakita are all played by various actors in different time frames, it is the performances of the young versions of the characters that really drive the film. The three young child actors were originally from the slums of Mumbai and in their film debuts, did a great job showing the troubles that these children endure, perhaps mimicking something they sometimes may go through in real-life.
Their performances do not take away the performances of newcomers Dev Patel, Frieda Pinto, and Madhur Mittal, who play the present versions of the characters. Patel brings out a kind of shyness yet subtlety to the role of the titular “slumdog millionaire” Jamal. Frieda Pinto brings out the “damsel in distress” role as Lakita while Madhur Mittal finds himself torn between his loyalty to his boss and his loyalty to his brother, as if he must act on a road to redemption for all the hurt he caused Jamal since they were little kids and there is plenty of that sibling rivalry that drives Salim to make a decision.
Boyle does bring out some disturbing scenes to the film, and while it does help the story move quite steadily, it can be quite cringe-worthy at times. One such scene involves a young boy singing for a local thug and after impressing the thug; he gets knocked out with ether and is blinded by some sort of silver nitrate to his eyes.
It is truly fitting that Slumdog Millionaire deserves its Oscar-winning award for Best Picture. Danny Boyle truly shows a sense of life in Mumbai slums mixed in with one man’s dreams coming true. Plus, check out the end credit sequence where Boyle pays tribute to Bollywood in true fashion. This is truly a delightful yet gripping film.
WFG RATING: A+
Warner Brothers presents a Celador Films production in association with Film4 and Pathé Pictures International. Director: Danny Boyle. Producer: Christian Colson. Writer: Simon Beaufoy; based on the novel by Vikas Swarup. Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle. Editing: Chris Dickens.
Cast: Dev Patel, Saurabh Shukla, Anil Kapoor, Raj Zutshi, Jeneva Talwar, Freida Pinto, Mahesh Manjrekar, Madhur Mittal, Irrfan Khan, Zaharuddin Mohammad Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Rubina Ali, Feroze Khan.