Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire: We Have a Winner



Slumdog Millionaire is the movie I've been waiting for all year.  It's surprising, entertaining, and above all it hits you right in the gut.  The emotional range of this film is something very very few movies this year have been able to achieve, which automatically should put it in an awards category.  There isn't any one thing that I can point to as the standout, but the entire package, wrapped up in the grime and the beauty of India is an example of the places we can be transported to, when a movie is good enough to not only take us for a ride, but take us on a journey.

At the onset we're introduced to Jamal Malik, a young contestant on India's version of "who wants to be a millionaire".  We learn Jamal's a boy who's probably seen more in 18 years than most people would wish to see in a lifetime, as his story unfolds through flashbacks.  It's through the game show's questions that we learn about Jamal's life, the answers unraveling before our eyes, sometimes even when we wish they wouldn't.  

Similarities to City of God have already been raised by many, and indeed the comparison is not unfounded, but Boyle's version is slightly more optimistic, I believe.  While the gritty realism is still intact, the heart at the center of this feels a little less tainted and cynical.

Danny Boyle's direction is flawless here.  Despite any issues people may have had with Sunshine, don't count Boyle out of possible Best Director categories in the upcoming awards season.  His work feels personal and boundary-crossing all at the same time. He and writer, Simon Beaufoy, weave a tale of love, life and betrayal that people of all backgrounds should feel inspired by.  Perhaps the "rags to riches" story isn't a new concept, but I guarantee this is a story that doesn't get old.  It feels like, just when a scene is about to feel stagnant or predictable, an amazing song comes on to infuse even more life into this movie that already pusles with every edit.

Part of the freshness has to be attributed to its cast of mainly unknowns.  While Dev Patel is the standout as Jamal, the 3 child actors portraying Salim, Jamal and Latika are heartbreaking and triumphant and the audience feels everything in between.  Ultimately this movie is a celebration of life, much like the culture it's based in, and a reminder that there are no boundaries that film can't cross.

Overall: 5 out of 5 Lifelines, and yes, that's my final answer

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