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Slumdog Millionaire Movie poster

A 2008 movie directed by Danny Boyle

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It is Written

  • Apr 14, 2011
There is an underlying sweetness to Slumdog Millionaire which is belied by its overt brutality. This movie is a nasty, gritty and very realistic depiction of the slums, but in the end it proves to be an uplifting, heartwarming, and inspirational fairy tale and love story in the vein of Walt Disney. The very hard life which Jamal, the main character and hero of Slumdog Millionaire, reveals before our eyes makes us root for him harder than most other protagonists over the last decade. Jamal is a very likable character too; as his inquisitor digs deep into Jamal's life, we learn the real reason why Jamal seems so indifferent on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire: "I came on this show because I was hoping she would be watching."

The "she" in question is named Latika, a young orphan girl whom Jamal invited into a shelter from the rain when they were very young, and much to the disdain of his brother Salim. The first time we get a look at the fully grown Latika, we don't blame him. The adult Latika is played by the breathtaking screen newcomer Freida Pinto. Latika becomes the third Musketeer, Aramis, to Jamal and Salim's Athos and Porthos. It's fitting how the two brothers can never remember the name of Aramis, because she keeps coming into their lives and then disappearing. (The Three Musketeers is the book which the brothers relate to.)

As mentioned before, Slumdog Millionaire plays like a hard version of a typical Disney movie. In Slumdog, there are bullies. But these aren't the kind of bullies who pick on main characters who have no self-esteem. The bullies in Slumdog make one violent appearance. They are Hindu extremists who attack the Muslims in the Mumbai slum where the family lives. While Salim and Jamal escape, the extremists kill their mother, effectively turning them both into orphans. Since they were born into both a bad social class and the wrong religion, their lives are pretty much over. The two of them - along with Latika when they meet her - drift from day to day, surviving mainly for the sake of surviving.

Salim at first falls into the role of caretaker for the younger Jamal. It's due to Salim's intervention on a number of occasions which keep Jamal and Latika alive, including in an orphanage in which the caretaker plans to exploit the children as beggars for his own fortune. But later, Salim goes and does something unforgivable which results in their breaking connections. But all of the things Jamal experiences in the Mumbai slums turn into quiz answers, which equal riches for Jamal on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Jamal has a chance to become the first-ever contestant to win the 20 million rupee prize on the game show, but since he's from the slums and can't possibly know that much, the suspicious host has him exposed to torture and inquiry because he thinks Jamal is cheating. Jamal tells the story of his life to the officer who is questioning him. Every question triggers a flashback showing how Jamal got the knowledge to do so well.

India is seen as an exotic resort by Americans looking for a relaxing getaway. It is romanticized psuedo-spiritual people tend to visit to make contact with local gurus for some kind of guidance. Slumdog Millionaire presents a crushing version of this same country, a place where social classes are strict and undesirables are left without support or charity. In India, if you don't socially fall into line the way your caste expects you to, you're cooked. Jamal, Salim, and Latika are the everyday people in this place. Even if they manage to survive the living conditions, the rigid social structure dictates they will never be much of anything. Jamal is good enough to win a job carrying tea to telemarketers at AT&T. The host of the show makes fun of him for this. Slumdog Millionaire even contains a very hard shot of social criticism, particularly in a scene where Jamal and Salim first see the Taj Mahal. Without the slightest hint of irony or sarcasm, one boy asks the other if it's a hotel.

Slumdog Millionaire takes place in three sections: The first shows the three main characters as children. The second shows them as adolescents. The third shows them as adults. (The three child actors who play Jamal, Salim, and Latika as children were actually plucked from real slums in India.) Normally is movies with such a long-term approach, the timeframe is used to show the characters growing together. But in this case, they tend to drift apart until they are separated both physically and mentally. You would expect a movie like that to end badly, but a final act of redemption, a reunion, and a triumph against heavy odds bring things together wonderfully. The movie revolves mainly around Jamal, and while his relationships with his two other Musketeers are explored, they're not very important to the story. In fact they are plucked from it entirely at certain points.

Despite the bleakness of the Indian slums, Slumdog Millionaire has the courage to find subtle traces of humor from the outskirts. There is one scene in which one of the young boys gets trapped in a bathroom and gets out in the worst way possible - all because he wants an autograph from the most famous Bollywood star in India. Later, as the keeper of the orphanage checks on Jamal's talent level to see if he's ready to "turn professional," Jamal sings only a little before demanding 50 rupees. He can get away with it, he says, because he is now a professional after all! The funniest scenes revolve around the boys as they act as phony tour guides to the Taj Mahal. They appear to have the time of their lives stealing shoes and telling phony stories about the old tomb's purpose to gullible Americans.

One of the things I found very strange - not good or bad, just strange - about Slumdog Millionaire was how the story switches from Hindi to English after the scenes featuring the youngest boys. It didn't distract me very much, but it just seems a little bit funny to me. Whenever Hindi is spoken, the usual method of running the translations along the bottom of the screen is ditched in favor of talk bubbles which appear where the talking characters are standing. This is actually good for the movie because it allows more than one character to talk at the same time, and so I would assume the translations are a bit more accurate.

Slumdog Millionaire has been universally acclaimed. It is up at the Oscars for Best Picture, if you pay attention to that sort of thing. I think a major part of its appeal to American audiences is that it tells a quintessentially American story: A young penniless man going against the grain and becoming something great after learning from experience and using those experiences in ways which play to his strength. In the end, we get the feeling that Jamal is not only competing to capture the attention of Latika, but to prove his worth to himself and to those in India who doubt him. Yet at the same time, Jamal doesn't want to do anything underhanded or illegal. One of the best scenes of suspense in the movie comes when a commercial break in Who Wants to be a Millionaire allows Jamal and someone on the show to use the bathroom. An answer to the next question is written on the bathroom wall, and the result of the aftermath of that scene is very well-played.

Go see Slumdog Millionaire. It takes a brutal path, but it will ultimately warm your heart. And if you're emotionally involved enough to stand up and cheer at the end, there's no embarrassment in actually doing that. After all, the entire Indian subcontinent will be joining you.

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April 27, 2011
It had a great soundtrack too. I really appreciated the fact that director Danny Boyle didn't give us a western style soundtrack. It would have completely destroyed the film.First film track I've bought in several decades--although if given the opportunity, I'd buy lots of Bollywood soundtracks.
April 27, 2011
I thought the Bollywood sequence at the end was awesome!
July 11, 2011
Way too short though. I'm used to true Bollywood flix where no matter how tragic the storyline may be, you still get several good song and dance numbers too. I'm putting together a list of some of my favorites which should be published soon. Most feature Shah Rukh Khan and were choreographed by Farah Khan.
April 15, 2011
outstanding review. :)
More Slumdog Millionaire reviews
Quick Tip by . October 01, 2010
I read the advertisements and couldn't imagine why I'd like it, but it really does pull you in.
Quick Tip by . September 25, 2010
Excellent storytelling from a great director, fantastic cast and superb narrative
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This movie was phenomenal on every possible level. Breathtaking cinematography, heart wrenching human interest, engaging characters, unpredictable plot, sincere romance, original dialogue, and super super tense moments. I wish I could see a movie this good every time we go to the theater!!! If only ; )
review by . May 18, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
"…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 …
review by . November 16, 2009
   I enjoyed this film but I did not feel it was as great as all the hype it has received.  The director uses flashbacks in a confusing manner starting with an adult Jamal being tortured in a Mumbai police station.  We are then treated to all kinds of flashbacks with an adult Jamal playing the India version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and a very poor kid Jamal being abused by his bully brother Salim.  Salim locks Jamal in an outhouse when the local celebrity comes to …
review by . March 03, 2010
Slumdog Misogynist
This story is so well crafted that the viewer suspends their reason and disbelief, and by the end of the movie we all overlook the simple but persistant message of the film... women are stupid.        Having an almost entirely male cast (one of the two female characters is quickly bludgeoned to death in the beginning of the film,) the focus intensifies on the singular female character.  The writers and directors would have us believe that as a "helpless" little …
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
awesome movie..i love watching this movie over and over again
Quick Tip by . June 07, 2010
UNBELIEVABLE. What an incredible movie. Really moving, eye-opening, and overall entertaining. Can't wait to read the book as well.
review by . February 25, 2009
I know it's been said a million times already and I hate to sound cliché, but it's a statement that rings true every time you say it. Who would have thought Danny Boyle, a man from Manchester could have created such an award winning phenomenon. Slumdog Millionaire is a film I tried to keep away from as long as possible as I didn't want to seem like a person who jumps on the bandwagon. I guess it was inevitable that I was to see it eventually and tonight was the night. It has remained in my memory …
Quick Tip by . February 08, 2010
It looks a little too cliche and uplifting at first glance, but it pulls through so earnestly it still ends up likable.
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Nicholas Croston ()
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this movie


Slumdog Millionaire is a 2008 British drama film directed by Danny Boyle, with co-director Loveleen Tandan, and written by Simon Beaufoy. It is an adaptation of the Boeke Prize winning and Commonwealth Writers' Prize nominated novel Q and A by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup.

An eighteen-year-old from the slums of Mumbai finds himself competing on the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," where the questions he must answer offer a look back at his earlier life. The show's host, however, insists that he must be cheating and takes steps to force young Jamal to admit that a boy from such an impoverished background could not possibly possess the knowledge necessary to win the show's top prize.

2008 Oscar Nominations
  1. Achievement in Cinematography
  2. Achievement in Directing
  3. Achievement in Film Editing
  4. Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)
  5. Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song, "Jai Ho")
  6. Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song, " O Saya")
  7. Best Motion Picture of the Year
  8. Achievement in Sound Editing
  9. Achievement in Sound Mixing
  10. Adapted Screenplay
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Movies, Foreign Films, Foreign Movies, Reel Overseas, Bollywood, Indian Films, 2008 Oscar Winner, 2008 Best Picture Oscar Winner, Best Picture Oscar Winner, 2008 Oscar Nominee, 2008 Best Picture Oscar Nominee, Oscar Winner


Release Date: November 2008 (US)
Runtime: 120 Min

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