Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Title: "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008)
Genre: Drama
Rating: R- for some violence, disturbing images, and language
Length of Time: 2 hours

What is it about?: Eighteen-year-old, Jamal (Dev Patel), is unaffectionately known as a Mumbai "slumdog". As a slumdog, he is not expected to know the answers or come close to winning India's version of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?". After coming within one question of winning 20 million rupees ($411,353.33 USD), Jamal is suspected of cheating. While he is being tortured by the police to reveal his cheating method, Jamal reflects on his life and describes in detail how he came to know each answer.

During these flashbacks we learn that Jamal has an older hothead brother, Salim, who he both loved and resented. Jamal's brother is both a protector and a perpetrator. Together, the orphaned brothers learn to survive the slums of Mumbai.

We also learn that Jamal loves Latika (Freida Pinto). His love for this third "Musketeer" transcends time and circumstance.

My Review: I was on the edge of my seat throughout this entire two-hour, fast-paced movie. There was never a dull moment, much like the suspenseful experience of watching the American "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" game show. This unique rags to riches tale, delivered great performances from the actors, crisp directing, and a writing style that flowed. This depiction of Indian lower class will likely offend some, but I appreciated the exposure to a different culture and acknowledged the educational experience that presented itself, whether intended or not.

The movie is sad at times and hard to watch. If you're easily offended by the harsh reality of what children have to endure in the slums as they go through the "school of hard knocks", hustling to survive, this movie may not be for you. Even with the harshness, the movie ends the only way it should, on a bright note.

The movie is told by various actors during various stages of the characters' lives. While the children at each stage may not REALLY look like themselves as they grow older, the actors do a great job of making the characters come alive so that we are never guessing who they are. This is central to the continuity of the film, which is pulled off perfectly. I do not feel the movie exploits the child actors, but shows, in effective story-telling, the innocence of children being exploited, manipulated, and abused.

Also note, the soundtrack is toe-tapping, but not overbearing AND you should be prepared to read subtitles at times during the movie unless you speak Hindu.

This movie rightfully was nominated for and won a TON of awards, including, but not limited to...

2009 Academy Award for Best Picture

2009 Academy Award for Best Director: Danny Boyle

2009 BAFTA for Best Film

2009 BAFTA for Best Direction: Danny Boyle

2009 Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture (Drama)

2009 Golden Globe Awards for Best Director (Motion Picture): Danny Boyle

My Recommendation: 5/5 Stars. People have complained about this movie being overrated and that there are other, better movies that show Indian culture. Keep in mind, there are a lot of people who thoroughly enjoyed this movie and you may be one of them. I'm sure there are other great Indian movies, but that doesn't make "Slumdog Millionaire" any less brilliant. I recommend you watch and decide for yourself.