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Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

DVD Cover (Fox Searchlight)
Genres:
Drama, Inspirational Drama, Urban Drama
Directors:
Danny Boyle Danny Boyle
Loveleen Tandan Loveleen Tandan
Starring:
Dev Patel Dev Patel
Saurabh Shukla Saurabh Shukla
Anil Kapoor Anil Kapoor
Raj Zutshi Raj Zutshi
Jeneva Talwar Jeneva Talwar

7.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: December 23, 2008
Pick a genre, any genre - chances are, Danny Boyle has mastered it. Since he burst onto the scene with "Trainspotting", Danny Boyle has been one of the most innovative and groundbreaking filmmakers working in the business. He has found success in virtually every genre and is universally loved by critics and fans alike. In 2002, he re-invented the zombie genre with "28 Days Later", one of the most visually sound horror films ever made. In 2004, he directed his most exceptional film to date, the wonderful "Millions", which proved he could also craft an intimate story that was family appropriate. His most recent film, "Sunshine", was the most creative science fiction film to come around in years and benefited from Boyle's incredible sense of low-budget imagery. His latest film is his most hyped film yet, "Slumdog Millionaire", a direct departure from anything the filmmaker has done in the past and a likely Best Picture nominees at the 2009 Academy Awards - it already has a Golden Globe nomination in the bag. For me, the problem with Danny Boyle is that he has set his own bar too high. We expect amazing things from him and are disappointed when they are not delivered. I enjoyed "Slumdog Millionaire" quite a bit and would go so far as to say it is one of the better films of the year, but it wasn't the best and I do think it has been overhyped. I enjoyed Danny Boyle's previous three films far more than this one. "Slumdog Millionaire" has all of the primary triggers for success - it was just missing that little something extra.

The film centers around Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a young man who has been accepted as a contestant on India's "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?" The film opens with Jamal being beaten and interrogated in a police station. We learn he has one millions of rupees and the police and the game show host (Anil Kapoor) think he cheated. As the police inspector (Irrfan Khan) tries to get the truth out of Jamal, we learn that the young man did not cheat, but knew each of the answers for a different reason. Through flashbacks to his youth, we learn how he knew these answers and how his entire life has revolved around his love and fascination with a girl named Latika (Freida Pinto), which whom he believes he is destined to spend the rest of his life. We watch as Jamal and his brother Salim grow up in the slums of Mumbai and then we follow them as the travel around trying to make ends meat, eventually leading them to a seemingly wonderful orphanage, until they realize the sinister goings on underneath the surface. Salim grows up to work for one of the local gangsters in the city, while Jamal serves tea in a call center, always on the look out for a way to get back in touch with the love he left behind. I won't give away the ending of the film, but don't expect any Shyamalan twists or anything. In terms of the story, everything is rather cookie-cutter. Don't expect to be grieving.

A Danny Boyle film lives and dies by its visuals. Luckily, "Slumdog Millionaire" is served in all of those areas. The cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle is likely to take home gold this year - "Slumdog Millionaire" vividly and energetically captures the look and feel of India, from the slums to the mansions, and the colors and the vibrancy of the location only add to the overall affect of the film. The original score by A.R. Rahman is one of the musical highlights of the year, and Boyle finally managed to find a way to properly use the song "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. But Danny Boyle is the man who deserves most, if not all, of the credit for the technical quality of this film. He has always had a way with younger actors and he proves that once again here, especially when you consider most of the film is revolving around these younger actors. Boyle also inserts some of his signatures into the film, from the fast-shudder techniques that he has always been so fond of to the man's obvious fascination with men in the rain. "Slumdog Millionaire" deserves all the praise it has been receiving on the technical end and I will be anxious to see how well it does stacked up against others at the Oscars.

Now, to the problems I had with the film. The film lacked an emotional punch. In a film like this, you need something to really grip you - to tug at you. In "Millions", we were given just that - you were really connected to the characters and you really were rooting for them and the ending leaves you just warmhearted and tear-struck. "Slumdog Millionaire" was missing that component for me. I was rooting for Jamal, of course. But I didn't feel that tug of urgency. There is something that happens between Jamal and Latika at the end of the film that should have left my heart soaring. Instead, I felt like I had been given all the ingredients for satisfaction, but just not the directions on how to make it. Maybe it had something to do with what I felt was an underdeveloped passion and relationship between Jamal and Latika. We never really understand why their bond is so strong and why they can't forget one another. Maybe the reasoning for that is in all the scenes we don't see in the film. I just felt like we could have been given something that would make us fully understand why these two people are destined to be together.

But, those gripes aside, "Slumdog Millionaire" was a good film. Not a great film, but a good one. I think the film is being overhyped and I think that can only serve to harm it in the end. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to see Danny Boyle win an Academy Award, but I cannot say he deserves it for this film. For "Millions", yes. For "Sunshine", yes. Not for "Slumdog Millionaire". I will recommend, however, that everyone stick around for the credit sequence at the end of the film, which is a real delight. That sequence almost made me forget about the problems I had with the picture. Almost. My suggestions for the film would be Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design and Simon Beaufoy for best Adapted Screenplay. I would love to be able to give it more, but I just don't think I can. Danny Boyle is just such an astonishingly good filmmaker that even a good film seems disappointing because you know he typically dabbles in greatness. But, see for yourself - see if it makes a better connection.

8/10.
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grain of sand #1: grain of sand - added 03/13/2009, 05:24 PM
Man, I really fucking enjoyed this.. I don't know what you're talking about when you say it lacks an emotional punch, I'd say it threw quite a few right and left hooks.. This definitely deserved all the awards it received.

I'm excited to see what Boyle does next and I'm excited to see if more subtitled movies get some recognition.

10/10
Optimus Prime #2: Optimus Prime - added 04/22/2009, 04:37 PM
Definitely deserved Best Picture. I still think Sunshine is Danny Boyle's best. 10/10
Tristan #3: Tristan - added 06/13/2009, 09:29 PM
I get what meanie said about the ending not really winning you over. I was glad they "hooked up" but it wasn't one of those moments that plays with the heartstrings. It was just sort of there. Also, I don't know who suggested it, but the dance sequence at the end of the film was fucking terrible and almost ruined it for me. That aside, it was a damn decent film. Shouldn't have won Best Picture, but to each his own.

8/10
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