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Non-Review Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Probably the only “feel-good film of the year” to involve excrement-covered urchins, the blindng of beggars and brutal police interrogation methods within the first half-hour of screentime.  I have to admit I love the marketing for the film, which has pitched it as a movie that will leve you feeling as though you just spent two hours basking in sunshine. I’d suggest the experience is somewhat different. That’s not to say I didn’t greatly enjoy the film – it was one of the best of the year – just a warning to viewers not to expect sunshine and lollipops for most of the film’s runtime. So, how does the official Best Picture of 2008 stack up?

Jamal noticed he was getting a lot more attention after he went on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Jamal noticed he was getting a lot more attention after he went on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

It is a very enjoyable film, anchored in strong performances from the cast and the incredibly stylish direction that we’ve come to note from Danny Boyle.The man even manages to make subtitles in the heavily non-English film look interesting, which is quite something.  Boyle and Beaufoy have managed to serve up on of the most interesting and dynamic rags-to-riches stories that I’ve seen in quite some time. The two know that – like anything else – true jubilation has to be earned.

The first hour-and-a-half is really tough going. My mother thought that The Wire’s depiction of Baltimore was bad, but the movie’s look at the life of the orphaned brothers in Bombay is nothing short of brutal. There are very few punches pulled, let alone any sachrine added, which is a rough and honest style that I hope Boyle can hold on to after this film propels him to deserved superstardom.

The framing device (Jamal’s appearance on India’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) is gimmicky, sure, but it is an interesting one that does not detract from the story that the writer and director are telling (I’m not going to point any fingers here… Benjamin). It also gives us the film’s best performance for a scene-stealing Anil Kapoor.

I would note that the film should probably be viewed as it was expected to be – a small cult sleeper hit – rather than what it turned out to actually be – an award-winning critical and commercial juggernaut. Still, Slumdog Millionaire is one of the best movies of last year. Maybe not the best, but it certainly wasn’t a bad choice for the Oscar – an award that rarely goes to even one of the strongest movies in a given year, let alone the strongest.

And yes, that was a jab at Shakespeare in Love.

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Slumdog Millionaire is directed by Danny Boyle (Sunshine, Transpotting, 28 Days Later) and stars Dev Patel (Skins). It was released in the UK and Ireland on 9th January 2009 and in the USA on 23rd January 2009 (but earlier on limited release to qualify for the Oscars). It won (among others) the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards.

2 Responses

  1. […] and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, with the more independent and fringe members voting for Slumdog Millionaire and Milk. There’s a very common folk theory (as voting details are never published), that it […]

  2. […] The Reader and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and seeing younger members voting for Slumdog Millionaire and Milk. In fairness, there are three very good films included in the selection – Milk, […]

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