Monday, December 15, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Danny Boyle is a man of many talents when it comes to delving into various genres, turning them inside out, and creating something utterly brilliant. His latest effort is no exception. 

Slumdog Millionaire is a little confusing in terms of style and content in the opening few scenes - is this a post-modern take on the effects of a TV phenomenon in a developing country, or a political drama whose young protagonist is tortured mercilessly by a pathetic police force? And what about that beautiful girl that stares at the camera?

As the plot and the pace settles, Boyle's film soars. Jamal, a boy who grew up in the slums of Bombai, is about to win the biggest prize on the TV show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?". The police arrests him and "questions" him, suspecting that he cheated. Jamal has to justify for how he knows the answers. Through lengthy flashbacks, we see episodes in Jamal's life that corresponds to the question being asked to him on the show. 

Despite its heavily-themed plot (the tough life on the slums, while India is emerging as an economic powerhouse), the film is surprisingly light-hearted. There are moments that stretch the viewers' tolerance, followed by hilarious set-pieces. It is credit to Boyle that none of this seems jarred in any way. We see the world through Jamal's eyes and we know why he has done what he has done.

The acting is stellar throughout, especially the older Salim - Jamal's volatile and ambitious brother - and Amir Khan as the politically-incorrect but morally-incorruptible officer. Lighter than City of God (2002), but no less strong in its convictions, this is a fantastic film that should be a dark horse for every award consideration.

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