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Slumdog Millionaire (2009) Director Danny Boyle 24 January 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Uncategorized.
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Slumdog Millionaire is the British Oscar underdog of 2009, a film horribly mis-marketed as a ‘feel-good’ hit (undoubtedly because Mama Mia! was so big on these shores) but a film undeniably powerful and affecting.

Dev Patel (from the first two series of E4’s Skins) plays Jamal Malik a teenage ‘slumdog‘ (having grown up in the slums of Mumbai) and chai wallah (tea boy for an Indian ousourcing centre) who finds himself on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and just one question away from the top prize when he is taken away by police and accused of cheating. How is it possible that an ignorant slumdog knows the answers where scientists and doctors have got no further than the first few questions asks Jamal’s interrogator. Simple: it is written.

Through flashback we learn how Jamal is able to answer all these questions as key events in his rich, but short life happen to inform him in all the right areas. For example in the very first flashback we are treated to a very young Jamal’s disgusting plunge into one of Mumbai’s open toilets to meet his idol Amitabh Bachchan, India’s biggest film star and the answer to an early question. The flashbacks depict the complex relationship Jamal has with his wayward older brother Salim and the love of his life Latika.

Far from a feelgood film Slumdog Millionaire can be very difficult to watch at times with some genuinely horrifying events portrayed on screen in the first half (the film opens with a surprisingly brutal torture scene for example). You have to go through a lot of Slumdog to get to the Millionaire but there is a sense of joy and fun which runs throughout the whole film.

Directed by Danny Boyle, one of Britatin’s finest filmmakers, Slumdog retains the rough edge many of Boyle’s best films (like Trainspotting and Shallow Grave) are known for but transposes it into a bollywoodesque fable. The film is beautiful though unlike with Australia it isn’t just the case in Mumbai that wherever you point camera will be instantly cinematic. Boyle even manages to make the slums look amazing so imagine what he can achieve with the Taj Mahal. However I was disappointed by his decision to use poor mans slow motion (you’ll know it when you see it, it looks awful) in some of the most powerful scenes. This technique should be banned from all films.

While I enjoyed Slumdog a great deal I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed when the credits rolled. The first half is much better than the second and perhaps that was my main problem. The film was a tough drama about the harsh (cinematic) realities of growing up in the Indian slums but the second was and unapologetic fairy tale, a tense and engaging one but a fairy tale nonetheless. I wouldn’t change a thing about the film but I do have my reservations about it. Over hyping a film is usually a very bad mistake.

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