20 March 2009

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire


Slumdog Millionaire
2008, 120mins, R
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Cast includes: Dav Patel, Anil Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla, Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan
Release Date: 12th November 2008

It would be hard to dislike a film as charming and ultimately upbeat as Slumdog Millionaire but when open to the vast amounts of awards buzz the picture is gaining it’s would also be quite easy to be underwhelmed. The film is a fine piece of work and sits nicely in director Danny Boyle’s rather high standard CV but by the same token it’s not quite the modern day classic the media are making it out to be.

The film basically charts the life Of Jamal (Dav Patel) in flashback form as he takes part in a game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. As each question is posed to Jamal we learn how he knows the answer thanks to his colorful life, and how all these years he’s been chasing after Latika (Freida Pinto) his childhood sweetheart. However as Jamal answers question after question the law becomes suspicious, after all how can this boy from the slums of India know all the answers?
The adult performances in the film are effective but not remarkable, Patel makes a solid and likeable lead whilst other mature actors play nicely with the script but in truth it’s the child performers who really steal the show. Those portraying Jamal his brother Salim and Latika in their younger years are the true stars of Slumdog Millionaire, the film depends on them as much as it does the more experienced actors and in many respects the youngster’s performances are key in making the later year incarnations of the various characters work. As the grown up Latika Freida Pinto is pretty and sweet but easily the dullest version of the character, whilst Anil Kapoor has great fun playing the host of the game show.

Danny Boyle’s direction is superb, if the picture is to win one Oscar it should be for his efforts behind the camera. Boyle has directed some really kinetic and visually interesting movies in the past but his work here might be among the very best we’ve seen from the British helmer. He captures the Slums of India wonderfully and uses his camera to such effect that the viewer might swear he was immersed in the very area depicted onscreen. He also paces the movie well and develops the characters at a rewarding pace, slowly drawing the audience in until they’re fully invested in this story of a boy looking for the girl he loves. Another really high point is the music from A.R. Rahman, the composer much like the director really capturing the essence of the story in his art.

The screenplay by Simon Beaufoy is well written and exudes a charm and charisma that make it hard for the viewer not to warm to his vision. He rarely treads into saccharine waters and keeps the film on purely reality based tracks, not everything is feel good in Slumdog Millionaire. The story is essentially an upbeat piece of cinema but it manages to insert in a few moments of sufficient grit to keep the picture from being irritatingly twee. In many ways Beaufoy deserves as many backslaps for the well worked character structure as the director or actors, he has after all written the basic arcs himself. Yet some of the writing and occurrences in the story are a little forgettable, never unwatchable just not always memorable. I can’t say any of these segments where bad but a few felt unneeded and a cut below the better moments in the feature.

I think the majority of people will find Sumdog Millionaire a worthwhile watch, it’s not perfect and maybe as sensational as you might have heard but it leaves you with a pleasant buzz when the credits roll. I can’t see it scooping best picture but Slumdog Millionaire works well within its own charming ambitions.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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