Epic. Touching. Horrifying. Romantic. Uplifting.
Mark J. Fowler | Okinawa, Japan | 12/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Slumdog Millionaire deserves a place among the masterpieces of world cinema. Praise is pouring in for this brilliant film, directed by Danny Boyle from a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy adapted from a novel by Vikas Swarup.
The settings move from the bleakest - the slums outside Mumbai, where our hero, Jamal Malik, lives as a child with his older brother Salim - to high rise vistas and no less than the Taj Mahal. The story ranges from the worst despair and heartbreak to the noblest sacrifice and most romantic love.
We are introduced in the opening moments to the young adult Jamal, played by Dev Patel. He is a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and has just answered the ten million rupee question prior to the end of the show. His next question will be worth twenty million rupees, an unimaginable fortune to the average Indian. The arrogant, primping star of the show, played with artificial charm concealing an oily narcissism by Anil Kapoor, cannot stand that young Jamal is stealing some of his spotlight, and believes that the young, uneducated "slumdog" is cheating. (One of the key sequences involves the host "proving" to himself that Jamal MUST be cheating.) Jamal has been handed over to the police, who torture him to make him confess his deception. This moment in Jamal's life frames the rest of the film, told in flashback, and explains the torturous road that allowed Jamal to answer even the most difficult questions.
We are not told about Jamal and Salim's father, but in an early sequence we see their mother murdered in a brutal religion riot as club-wielding Hindu's attack a Muslim slum. Orphaned, Jamal and Salim live in the trash dump at the edge of the slum. They befriend another orphan, the young girl Latika.
The remainder of the film fills in the gaps of the lives of Jamal and Salim and Latika, who call themselves the Three Musketeers, but only got far enough in school before the murder of their mother to learn the names Athos and Porthos. Along the way they encounter police brutality, orphanage directors who make Fagin and Bill Sykes look like Mother Teresa, as well as Indian gangsters and other people-traffickers. Several sequences show us that Salim is becoming hardened by their harsh life, although he retains a degree of love for Jamal. For his part Jamal makes the most of what life gives him. He only resorts to the criminal activities Salim sees as the only way to make it out of necessity. At two different times Jamal is heart-breakingly separated from Latika, and at one level the entire film is a love story about Jamal's single-minded dedication to reunite with the only girl he ever loved. (Nine astonishing performances are given of the "Three Musketeers" at three different ages of life, and it is appropriate to give credit to Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail and Rubiana Ali as the youngest Jamal, Salim and Latika as well as Tanay Chheda, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala and Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar as the just-past-puberty versions. Dev Patel and the beautiful Freida Pinto may become international sensations as the adult star-crossed lovers. Madhur Mittal has less screen time as the adult Salim, but his character plays an important role.)
The faint-hearted should know that the language could appear on American television and that there is no nudity, but the violence, in particular two torture scenes, are flinch-inducing.
Slumdog is a piece of fiction - a fantasy - but it includes real emotions and believable human characters. I walked from the theater feeling a little better about being alive, and knowing that I had just viewed a stunning artistic achievement.
One of the inequities of the movie business is that a film like this can only open in a few theaters in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and take weeks to arrive at "lesser" destinations like Atlanta and Houston and St. Louis, while Beverly Hills Chihuahua opened nationwide on thousands of screens. I'm just sayin'.
This breakthrough film is a true global masterpiece!
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 11/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's fresh and it's magical and horrific. It's the hero's story of a quest. And it's the story of the city of Mumbai, India, with its vast contrasts of utter poverty in an emerging modern world. It moves with lightning speed and I found myself smiling one minute and grimacing in disgust in another. It's an emotional roller coaster ride that left me exhilarated and convinced that this breakthrough film is a true global masterpiece.
The film opens as a young Indian man competes on a television quiz show. He is winning and winning. In the next scene he is being tortured by the police because they think he is cheating as he is not educated and is a child of the slums. His story is then told in flashbacks, as the audience learns how he came to know the answers to each of the questions.
We meet him and his brother as young children living on the street and exploited by gangsters to become street beggars. However, there is constant humor in juxtaposition to the wince-inducing revulsion which adds a special kind of humanity to the story. Through all the misfortunes to which the brothers are exposed, there is an upbeat quality to the film, as we come to understand that it was these traumatic incidents in this young man's life that taught him the specific answers to the question being asked on the quiz show.
Of course there is also a romance. Our hero is looking for the young woman he loves, a childhood companion through the horror, who is still being exploited by the Indian underworld, which now includes his brother.
All of this is packed in an upbeat and moving story that involved me from the beginning and made me want to stand up and cheer at the happy ending.
This is not a film to be missed. It breaks all the stereotypes and comes across as a groundbreaking fresh new voice in the landscape of the world of film. I give it my highest recommendation.
Love over gold
Glenn S. Brauer | Lexington, KY | 07/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this movie back in the Christmas season last year with some reluctance. Were it not for a good friend edging me on I probably would not have bothered. I incorrectly sensed that it was just another drippy foreign film about drippy people living on the edge and getting lucky.
Boy was I wrong.
This is such a smart, cleverly woven story with a classic twist--reminding me of Dickens--and all the stuff we love about life, but what's really striking--and I just watched this twice on DVD--is the precious love that is expressed here.
Lump in throat anyone?
Goosey bumps, too?
I just lap it up. Call me a sucker--but I had to re-play the last two minutes over and over again--where our hero brushes his sweetie's scarred cheek...and you either already know or will know the rest. It just kills me every time.The quintessential message is: LOVE OVER $$, GOLD, whatever, ANY DAY!
An uplifting romance combined with quasi-philosophical explo
J. Renouf | 05/06/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The title says it all. The film is about diametrical juxtapositions: affluence and squalor, ethical duty and utilitarian abnegation of morality (e.g., Jamal's conscience vs. the callousness of the slave traders), true love and corporeal lust (e.g., the harem of Javed vs. profound sentiments between Jamal and Latika). Slumdog Millionaire's success lies in its insistence on extremes to offer a quasi-Dickensian social critique. Though this viewpoint certainly represents nothing novel, the film is strikingly original in its multilayered approach. It is at once a credible romance, tracing the development of Jamal's and Latika's relationship to serendipitous fruition from their life as street kid "musketeers" through Latika's unhappy position as the sex toy of a polygamous, abusive husband; a documentary that affords a seemingly panoramic view of Indian culture, including a coldy realistic portrayal of the law enforcement officials and the horrors of the child beggar slave trade; and a philosophical commentary on justice and free will. This latter point is of particular importance to the film's message and is particularly illustrated in the sequence involving the show's two final questions that he does not know the answer to.
First, in the move that gets him arrested, Jamal picks an answer different from the one that the quiz show host writes on the mirror in the bathroom. What is interesting here is why he does this. Perhaps he is reacting against the host's obvious contempt for him as one nouveau riche Indian to another by deliberately picking a different answer. More plausibly, however, it is because of Jamal's resistance to choose any answer that he didn't pick of his own accord. In this way, the film equates the apparent randomness of answering a multiple-choice question correctly when one doesn't know the answer with the often apparent randomness of making good ethical choices. Jamal's slumdog background would indicate to the authorities that he should have been taught no moral principles and thus would choose the sleazy way out by cheating, yet he seems to have an innate sense of right and wrong. Jamal's choices may seem more random since they are untutored by a principled upbringing, yet the attempt is to show -- if we grant Boyle the, again, quasi-Dickensian supposition that any individual at birth has a greater propensity toward good than evil -- that the poor and disadvantaged person may, in fact, be more likely to choose right because he is less tainted by the learned behaviors of acquisitiveness.
Second, in a twist of dramatic irony, Jamal is asked what the name of the third musketeer is and is unable to answer even though he, Latika, and his brother Salim used to call themselves the "Three Musketeers." In a scene of tremendous energy and tension, Latika, who has been released from her bondage rather unexpectedly by Salim, had rushed to the show to meet Jamal. Because Jamal doesn't know the answer, he uses the "phone-a-friend" option to call Salim, but instead reaches Latika, whom Salim had given the cell phone and who has now arrived at the show. She doesn't know the answer either, so in the end Jamal ends up randomly picking the first available answer, A, Aramis, the right answer. This wonderful sequence ties in the themes of fate and justice while reiterating the illustration of moral dilemmas from the first question. Jamal's life has been one of degradation and subjugation, as well as waiting and hoping to be with the woman he loves. It is therefore poetic justice that the answer to the final question should be the first available one.
Some have claimed that the film is nothing original thematically. To them I ask, well what isn't? In the end, it's how one treats the themes that matters. Therein lies the originality of this film, easily one of the very best made in the past 10 years.