Fox Searchlight Films
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring Dev Patel, Anil Kupoor, Freida Pinto Saurabh Shukla and Mahesh Manjrekar
3 1/2 Stars
Anybody who watched the Golden Globes knows that “Slumdog Millionaire” has emerged as the film to beat come Oscar time. This is the film that’s been picking up best picture and director awards right and left, and buoyed by their success at winning these early-season statues, the filmmakers have finally decided to release “Slumdog” into every market in America.
Not bad for a little independent film that nobody had heard of just three months ago.
Directed by Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire” tells the story of a poor orphan boy (Dev Patel) who grew up in the slums of Mumbai. As a young man, he finds himself competing on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” What’s more, he finds himself playing for the grand prize, which raises suspicions from police officers who can’t believe that an uneducated orphan youth would know the answers to the game show’s difficult questions.
The boy calmly tells the story of his childhood, and explains in flashback how his love for a young girl put him in the position to coincidentally learn all the show’s answers. It’s as if the Fates have conspired to prepare the boy to win on the game show, although the boy doesn’t care about the money — he’s only competing in the desperate hope that his success somehow leads to a happy ending with the girl he loves (Freida Pinto).
Now before you get all choked up at the romantic core of the film, bear in mind that “Slumdog Millionaire” spends most of it’s time wallowing in Mumbai’s abject poverty. It’s hard to get too sentimental amid all the filth and violence, but that’s also part of the reason why the film’s ending packs such a powerful punch. This is the story of a boy who is so committed to his sweetheart that even the worst living conditions in the world can’t diminish his ardor.
The crowd-friendly story is boosted by the exotic sounds and sights of India. The film is alive with vibrant colors and strange sights, and the soundtrack soars with a hybrid musical score that incorporates modern American pop hits with rhythmic Eastern dance tracks. I defy anyone not to smile when the final credits roll and the cast performs a gigantic Bollywood dance number set amid the hustle and bustle of an Indian train station.
That’s emblematic of what makes “Slumdog Millionaire” so special — this is a film that shows all the good and bad elements of India, while simultaneously reveling in its sweet love story. Some of the images might be difficult to watch (there are several murders, disfigurations and a boy covered in feces) but the audience is ultimately left with a sense of joy and an appreciation for life and love.
With that in mind, it is little wonder that this unheralded indie film has turned into the big dog at this year’s Academy Awards.
Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and weekly on KFDM-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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