Saturday, December 20, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

Much like 2003's City of God, Slumdog Millionaire plunges the audience into unfamiliar territory and provides a cultural contemplation that leaves you wanting more after it ends. Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine) hurls his camera into interesting areas and extracts moving performances from his lead characters; at the same time, the film almost has a documentary feel to it because it is so genuine.

Slumdog Millionaire
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor

Set and shot in India, the story revolves around an 18-year-old uneducated "slumdog" named Jamal Malik, who is on the Hindi version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" If you're doubting the quality of the movie based on that plot description, you aren't the only one: I thought the same thing before I saw the movie. Seriously, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" But trust me - the structure of this movie is so awesome that it isn't even an issue. It actually becomes one of the coolest aspects of the film, because every time Jamal is asked a question on the show, there is a flashback to personal experiences that reveals how he knows the answer.

I really can't recommend this highly enough. It reminds me of Wristcutters: A Love Story from last year, a little-known independent film that I ranked as my favorite movie of the year. The story for Slumdog Millionaire is, in its most basic form, a love story between Jamal and a girl he meets as a child named Latika. He gets on the show because he knows she will be watching (the whole country becomes enamored with the program when they find out that this uneducated kid is rocking it so hard) and uses it as an opportunity to reconnect with her after years of tumultuous times.

The cinematography is incredible. The filmmakers used lightweight digital prototype cameras to have the maneuverability necessary to move around in some of those tight spaces in the slums of India, and the results are definitely worth checking out. The editing is great, lending well to Boyle's intense style. But the soundtrack is what really has people talking, featuring a fantastic pulsating mix of songs by composer A.R. Rahman and even features "Paper Planes" by MIA.

This is one of those rare films that pulls you in from the moment it begins and doesn't allow you to even consider stepping away from it. I was utterly captivated the entire time and completely invested emotionally. When Jamal is asked the final question on "WWTBAM," I was on the edge of my seat. The relationship between Jamal and Latika is essentially a modern-day fairy tale: would these series of coincidences actually happen in real life? Probably not, but we don't care - the movie captures a sense of joy and translates it directly to the audience in a way that makes me remember why I love movies so much in the first place. Truly a triumphant celebration of life and destiny, Slumdog Millionaire succeeds for all the right reasons and proves once again the versatility of its director. This is a must-see. Until next time...

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