"…If you look hard enough, Life can give you all the answers."
This is one phrase I've always been told and director Danny Boyle's adaptation of the novel by Vikas Swarup tells a very whimsical tale. The film has won several Academy film awards, most probably because of its portrayal of humanity. The film is a rousing crowd-pleaser, it is an excellent tale of life, love and delightful destiny.
Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is a young man on the verge of winning a significant large fortune in India's version of the game show, "Who wants to be a Millionaire?". Jamal is an uneducated young man from the slums and one would be very hard-pressed to believe that this young can go this far, exceeding the capabilities of scholars and wise men. Accused of cheating, Jamal is questioned by the local authorities, and his mind drifts back to his past, a past tainted by the bleakness of his childhood, his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) and his childhood love, Latika (Freida Pinto). Will he lose everything or attain all his dreams?
Danny Boyle's film is edited in a fragmented style, as the past is told in flashbacks. There is a strong appeal along the film's screenplay, as it delves into a reactionary pace in its poetic rhythm. Jamal's character is perfectly fleshed out, as the film meticulously reveals his childhood, seen through his memories, and the very unbalanced relationship with his brother Salim. They lived in the slums of India, doing what they could to survive whatever life throws at them; from abusive crime syndicates who use children, to selling goods on the train, pretending to be guides, stealing shoes for profit, that leads to Jamal being a mere aide in a telecommunications company. Jamal and Salim were separated when they were children, Salim took the dark path, as he becomes the henchman of a crime boss. Latika is the one girl that proves to be the catalyst for Jamal's inspirations, and carries all the wealth of the film's thematic message of destiny.
The underlying secret of Jamal's childhood is told to two cops, and it is very bleak indeed. There are hinted at child abuse, and there are mild doses of violence. I rather thought that Boyle did well in his expositions of the comings and goings in India, the cultural differences are brought into center stage as the audience becomes privy to life in the slums. The film gives us glimpses into India's red light district, and the workings behind child begging. These are things that came as no surprise to me, as I am well aware that children have been used as beggars by the underworld for many years. The soundtrack utilizes a neo-India/modern style that adds some great atmosphere as it complimented its mood.
Jamal is one optimistic individual, and maintains a heart of gold. The film does manage to balance its somewhat bleak tone with the developing love between Jamal and Latika. It is something to look forward to in the eyes of Jamal and the viewer, and therefore proves very predictable. While there are indeed weaknesses in the script, the film does manage to enthrall the audience due to its excellent editing tricks that nails down the atmosphere and emotions. I may say even go as far as the film barely offers anything new, the far superior Brazilian masterpiece, "City of God" did everything "Slumdog Millionaire" did better, but Boyle's film manages to make his audience feel uplifted as Meirelles' felt very dark and depressing. This is one common denominator critically acclaimed movies mostly share (but not all), they have a good message. During this very depressing times, it is refreshing to see an uplifting motion picture.
The film is well acted, but I thought the children who played Jamal, Salim and Latika stole the show. These children do manage to turn up the emotion in the film's sequences to generate sympathy, and does serve up bits of humor, (however, hopeless their plight may seem to be). The film becomes darker and bleaker as Jamal's memories slowly unfold, that you know that it may get worst before it gets better. Their evolution in a harsh setting is the film's main draw, and realistically, the film requires some suspension of disbelief as to how everything seemed to fall into place. Which brings us to some of the film's weaknesses. There are times that I felt that the film felt a little rushed, that some elements weren't brought into fruition. There are some plot holes and some did hamper the film, not too much but they did. I also thought that the film's climax came rather quickly, with a perfunctory factor that was too telegraphed with its almost overdone sentimentality.
"Slumdog Millionaire" is a story of hope, love and destiny amid the most dire situations. It is an effective tale of rising above to achieve your dreams, and in this case, it is a lovely story of love. Its theme captured 8 Academy awards including best picture, I guess the American audience do love tales such as this. Don‘t get me wrong, this is a great film, strong in its message that no situation is so bleak that one cannot rise from, but reality turns its ugly head, as we all know that this fictional tale is so far-fetched. I guess we all need to be uplifted at times, but I still prefer actual gritty realism, it best signifies ambitious filmmaking.
Highly Recommended! [4 Stars]
What did you think of this review?