Thursday, January 01, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

A rare number of "feel-good" movies are truly great films. Slumdog Millionaire is one of those films.
With a screenplay written by Simon Beaufoy (from the novel by Vikas Swarup) and directed by Danny Boyle (and Loveleen Tandan in India) it is a cinematic rags to riches story of a boy, Jamal Malik (effectively played by Dev Patel) who wins the Indian television version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?". When arrested after correctly answering all but the last question and detained overnight, he narrates a tale of life and love, telling how he came to this point in his young life. His story, shown in flashbacks, provides a panorama of Indian life at the turn of the century and shows his rise from the slums to a job in a modern high-tech call center and his love of the beautiful Latika (Freida Pinto) that his the central passion. I was impressed with the acting of Irrfan Khan as the Police Inspector (as an actor he has been exceptionally busy with more than twenty films in the last two years, but I remember his performance as the father of Gogol Ganguli in The Namesake from 2006).
There are many aspects of Slumdog which deserve praise; just a few of which include the effective pacing with contrasting scenes of the young boy's rough early life with the near celebrity of his TV appearance, the death of his mother at the hands of a mob, the conflict between Jamal and his brother Salim, timely humorous scenes that relieve some of the tension that accumulates as the story progresses, and the overriding passion of Malik's love for Latika to which she only slowly responds. The combined effect of the story, the scenes of India, and the reverberating beat of Indian music are dazzling. This is a film to sit back and enjoy both in the theater and afterward as memories of exciting emotional moments continue in your mind.

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