Every dog has his day – Slumdog Millionaire review

Slumdog Millionaire – Starring Dev Patel, Freida Pinto and Anil Kapoor. Directed by Danny Boyle. Rated MA for strong themes and violence. 120 mins.

Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 25 million rupees on India’s favourite game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. He grew up in the slums of Mumbai; living on trash heaps with his brother Salim and the adorable Latika. Not that he was unhappy mind you. The self-proclaimed ‘Three Musketeers’ were able to find some joy in their horrible situation. That is, until the years pass and tear them apart. Now Jamal is set to become richer than he could have ever imagined. Except, he doesn’t seem to be that interested in the money. Even when the police begin to torture him for information. According to them, a slumdog like Jamal could never have gotten so far without cheating.

Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire is an explosion of colour, an eruption of sound and a wave of delight that carries you right out of the cinema and into the streets. Poverty-stricken landfills become colourful playgrounds. Train hopping becomes a lively game of hopscotch. Even that tired theme from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire becomes a stirring and nerve-wracking musical trigger. The film makes you laugh, and yes, it will even make you cry. It is Boyle’s crowning achievement. No mean feat for a director whose varied filmography includes Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Sunshine.

Dev Patel stars as the 18-year-old Jamal, forced to recount his life story to police investigators doubtful of his game-show success. It becomes clear that the sometimes-tragic events of his life have provided him with the answers necessary to progress from 1000 rupees to almost 25 million (roughly $770,000 AUS). Freida Pinto stars as the adult Latika, a girl who has undergone even more tragedy than Jamal. Their star-crossed relationship becomes the driving thread of the film, and is easily the most convincing love story of the year. Yes, even better than the semi-abusive, faux-relationship of Bella and Edward, just in case any ‘Twilight-mums’ were reading.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot. After all, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy has gone to a lot of effort to adapt Vikas Swarup’s novel “Q and A”. Balancing a traditional Hollywood love story with a portrait of India (and some fun game-show cliches thrown in the mix), it’s one of the most ingeniously structured mainstream films I’ve seen in a long time.

Some reviewers have accused the film of its ‘western’ leanings, portraying India’s overpopulation and poverty as ‘quaint’. I bet these are the same people who tip tour guides to show them “The Real India” or “The Real Vietnam” or some such rubbish. God, I hate those people. Do you think they criticise My Fair Lady for its unrealistic take on homelessness in London too? The film is a fantasy, that’s for sure. I’d throw in the phrase Dickensian, had I ever read a Charles Dickens novel. But there is some startlingly brutal tragedy in this film. To call it ‘quaint’ would be like calling City of God ‘charming’.

I recommend all parents take their children to see Slumdog Millionaire. The film definitely warrants an MA rating (the opening scenes of torture don’t even compare to some of the horrible ordeals the children of the film go through). But there is so much joy and fun in this film, it would be cruel to keep kids away. It even ends with a Bollywood-style musical number. I’d like to see those pouty kids in Twilight pull that off.

5/5

Check out the trailer here.

2 Responses to “Every dog has his day – Slumdog Millionaire review”

  1. This is one of the best movies of the year!! It was awesome. The cinematography of the Mumbai slums was spot on. I experienced so many emotions during this film. Im telling everyone I know its ” A MUST SEE FILM” The little kids are adorable and they all did a great acting job.

  2. I have to agree. I loved it. Sure it has elements of fantasy / fairytale about it, but its incredibly entertaining, poignant, funny and sad. A great film.

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