Monday, December 01, 2008

Review: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

In Danny Boyle's latest film, he visits India to show us the hard-knock life of Jamal Malik, a "slumdog", who grew up to be a famous by winning "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". The only problem is, nobody believes he actually knew all the answers, so they interrogate him. What we get is an entertaining look through Jamal's life, complete with the little details as to how he knew the answer to the questions.

I think anyone can relate to that; whenever I know some random piece of information, someone will ask how I know that, and it's simple, this one time I was in this place and this thing happened and that's how I know. Jamal's story is a slightly more unique, though. He went through many hardships before he had even hit puberty. He spent time in tourist hot-spots conning people for money and stealing their shoes. He eventually got a job as an assistant, delivering coffee to people in one of those telemarketing agencies.

Then, he's on the show. But the only reason he is is not to make money, but to see if his long lost childhood soul mate is watching. I've been tricked into watching a love story.

Boyle's directing is decidedly un-tidy. There is a high-paced energy throughout the whole film--except when Jamal is on the hot seat, playing for millions. We see the history of Jamal and Salim (his brother with slightly higher ambitions) and Latika, their childhood companion from the slums; their "third musketeer". We see his heart breaking quest to find them both through his long journey, and he does it always with humility and a Bollywood ending.

I liked this movie a lot. I was always excited whenever Jamal would embark on another story telling. We see that he's not a genius, he's just a normal kid with slightly different life experiences from you or me. I thought his adventures were fun, and because the love story is actually the biggest factor in the whole movie, it'd be hard to tone it down. But I'd say that's what I didn't like so much about it.

The movie is generating a lot of buzz; just last night it won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Newcomer at the British Independent Film awards. It's on the short list for Best Picture at the Oscars. I guess it's supposed to be "this year's Juno or Little Miss Sunshine", but it fits more the underdog category than any of them do.

Grade: B

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