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Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is just one question away from winning a fortune on India's version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" But how has this uneducated young man from the slums succeeded in providing correct responses to questions that have stumped countless scholars before him? And will he ultimately win it all or lose everything, including his true love?
Danny Boyle (Sunshine) directed this wildly energetic, Dickensian drama about the desultory life and times of an Indian boy whose bleak, formative experiences lead to an appearance on his country's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" Jamal (played as a young man by Dev Patel) and his brother are orphaned as children, raising themselves in various slums and crime-ridden neighorhoods and falling in, for a while, with a monstrous gang exploiting children as beggars and prostitutes. Driven by his love for Latika (Freida Pinto), Jamal, while a teen, later goes on a journey to rescue her from the gang's clutches, only to lose her again to another oppressive fate as the lover of a notorious gangster.
Running parallel with this dark yet irresistible adventure, told in flashback vignettes, is the almost inexplicable sight of Jamal winning every challenge on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?," a strong showing that leads to a vicious police interrogation. As Jamal explains how he knows the answer to every question on the show as the result of harsh events in his knockabout life, the chaos of his existence gains shape, perspective and soulfulness. The film's violence is offset by a mesmerizing exotica shot and edited with a great whoosh of vitality. Boyle successfully sells the story's most unlikely elements with nods to literary and cinematic conventions that touch an audience's heart more than its head. --Tom Keogh
Stills from Slumdog Millionaire (Click for larger image)
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Being an old gringo who has never had personal contact with Hindi folks or visited India, I got connected via Bollywood. I am a high end home audio professional and my first attraction, besides the stunning actresses, was the really artful make use of surround sound and the engaging musical arrangements. That said, I first chased my way through the make believe world of the musical romantic comedies. Searching for more, I ran into some of the real gritty and honest views of life in India. They can leave you emotionally drained with the full complement of guilt, sympathy and a profound respect for the strength of the Human spirit.
This film is an amazing example of demonstrating the best and worst of what we can be. Nothing is held back. Against the vivd images of life in the squalor and horror of life in almost unlivable conditions, we are graphically shown the very best and worst of what we can be. We are reminded of the seemingly limitless optimism of children.
You will find it very hard to avoid becoming completely immersed emotionally in this film. As gritty and horrifying as it becomes, the depth of character and spirit of selfless devotion will overshadow everything else.
Just reviewing my emotional extremes as I took this ride, I am still amazed. When I watched it the fourth or fifth time I started looking for flaws in the characters and progress of the action or even the ending. A movie about making enough money to take you to a living Disneyland is never about the money or the Disneyland dream life that it would buy. That is just the common denominator carrot that draws you into the so much bigger story of a child's dreams and if you get a chance to step back from the torrent of emotion that you are assailed with, you get to see how dangerous the money and what it brings with it are. I guess I never really sat down and analyzed just how much this movie had to say or how much insight is revealed. Just stunning.