Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Slumdog Millionaire

By Matthew Starr
Danny Boyle has been one of the most creative and interesting directors of the last ten years, but has gotten very little recognition during that time period. His films usually do moderately well at the box office and then develop a bigger fan base when released on DVD. Some of his works, including Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, are among the great genre films in recent years. Sooner or later Boyle was going to have a masterstroke, and he now has it in Slumdog Millionaire.

Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is a kid from the slums of Mumbai who happened to become a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? On the show he answers every question correctly, leading up to the final question just as the show runs out of time. As he leaves the studio he is taken into custody by the police on suspicion of cheating. Jamal explains to the authorities how he knew the answers to all the questions, and in the process describes the story of his life.

Every aspect of Slumdog Millionaire is excellent. The story is unique and crosses multiple genres like drama, comedy, romance and crime, allowing for a wide range of emotions from the audience. There are no actors in the cast that you will be familiar with, but the performances are exemplary, especially by the children that play younger versions of Jamal and his brother.

I have personally never seen any Bollywood films, but the fact that Boyle was able to go into India and get the cast that he did proves that there is a lot of talent to be unveiled there. Perhaps this could lead to us seeing a more diversified crop of actors in mainstream films going forward… and no, Harold and Kumar is not what I am looking for. (But that’s a topic for another day.)

Anthony Dod Mantle’s wonderfully crisp cinematography should be receiving technical accolades later this year, having previously worked on 28 Days Later and The Last King of Scotland. The soundtrack is outstanding: A.R Rahman orchestrated the score and M.I.A (Paper Planes) also contributes. Of course, Boyle always has fast-paced and intense editing in his films, and this one is no exception.

There have been rumblings that Slumdog Millionaire will be this year’s Little Miss Sunshine or Juno. Interestingly enough, all three movies were/are distributed by Fox Searchlight (which is also releasing The Wrestler this year), which is enough evidence to prove that it is a brilliantly run company, both in terms of development and promotion.

As to whether or not it’s this year’s Little Miss Sunshine or Juno I both agree and disagree. It will be (or should be, at the very least) the film that gets nominated for awards and that no one saw coming a few months before. It will not do as well at the box office as the other two movies because it lacks the star power, but it is a better film than both Little Miss Sunshine and Juno.

If you ask me right now what the best film of 2008 is so far, I would say Slumdog Millionaire. And that’s my final answer.

5 / 5 stars

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