Top positive review
151 people found this helpful
Epic. Touching. Horrifying. Romantic. Uplifting.
on December 21, 2008
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'.