British director, Danny Boyle, delivers another heart-touching, emotional film with Slumdog Millionaire. You may remember his film last year, Sunshine, about a team of astronauts who need to re-ignite the sun (sounds far-fetched, but it was well made, and the acting was fantastic). Slumdog takes place in Mumbai, India - which you may recall was unfortunately in the news in late November due to the terrorist / hostage situation in three of their major hotels - telling the tale of how two young brothers from the slums (hence "slumdogs") "made" it, in their separate ways. One out of greed and hunger for power, the other to be with his true love.
Jamal Malik (played chiefly by Dev Patel) and his older brother, Salim (played by various actors), had it fucking rough growing up. When you literally live in trash while growing up, maybe "rough" is not quite expressive enough, but it will do. The film is told from Jamal's perspective, during a torturous police interrogation. Jamal made his way onto the Indian / Hindi version of the television show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, and there is the suspicion that he fraudulently answered the questions on the show. Each answer to the shows' questions holds with it a story in Jamal & Salim's past, that Jamal retells to the police detective, giving a thorough explanation as to how a slumdog could possibly hold such a wealth of knowledge. Throughout the series of stories, we learn how Jamal met his true love, Latika (played by the beautiful Freida Pinto), and see that his whole life since then has been trying to rescue her from a subservient life with the scum of Mumbai.
While Jamal and Salim both were mischievous children, Salim most certainly was the more aggressive and daring. Both boys, along with dozens of other children and Latika, are taken as captives to a large pan-handling / swindling syndicate. When the boys escape, Latika is left behind, and Jamal is left with a burning desire to find her again. Salim slowly shifts into a life of crime, to a much heavier degree than Jamal could handle. After they reconnect with Latika, Salim shows that he can be sinister & cruel even towards his younger brother, which leads to them going their separate ways. Jamal ends up working as an assistant in a call center, while Salim turns into the right-hand man the biggest mobster in the area.
The acting was spot-on; Patel was simply perfect for his role. In general, the acting felt so real and intense that it makes you question why more American actors can't play these types of roles. There was a strange friction caused by the game show host (played by Anil Kapoor), which I never really figured out - for some reason he did not want Jamal to win. Going off of subtle dialogue clues, my guess is Kapoor's character did not want to play second-fiddle, in terms of popularity, to an off-the-street slumdog. It felt surreal seeing some of the shots from Mumbai, just knowing this is how millions of people have to survive (not just in India, of course). The atmosphere, raw nature and violence of Slumdog Millionaire reminded me of the Brazilian cities in the film City of God.
I was never a fan of the game show when Regis Philbin hosted the American version, so I took the liberty of reading up on the rules of the game, since it seemed strange to me that you could hear a question and possible answers, then decide if you were going to keep the money you already earned or answer the question. Not to say I didn't trust the film makers in getting their facts straight, but you can never be too sure, and they portrayed the show accurately. You could probably chalk that up to me trying to find a problem with the film, because I really couldn't otherwise.
The pace of the film is perfect - there is a constant level of intensity that would fluctuate throughout the film, and it is never dull or slow - even the most attention-crazed movie goers will not be bored. There is really only one thing that kind of stuck out at me, and my guess is it was removed during the editing process. The film never fully explains how Jamal got onto the show, only that he did it he could get into contact with Latika, who was a fan of the show, as much of the area was. Jamal does explain at one point that he knew exactly when to call, so that some person could have their best chance of getting through to the show, but the whole process of how he made it on was never developed.
Could someone please fucking put Freida Pinto in more films? This girl is absolutely gorgeous, and I'd put her acting ability at a Natalie Portman / Scarlett Johansson level, albeit this was Pinto's first credited role, so it might be a bit of "beginner's luck", if you will. You might think it is silly to get on a game show to have your true love find you again, but if you have exhausted all other options of communication, and your true love looked like Pinto, you'd answer those questions too. Now I am pretty torn; Milk seemed like a shoe-in for best picture of the year, but Slumdog Millionaire throws me an unexpected curveball. Regardless of who has more political pull with the Academy, you should see this film. It is a little graphic at times, but most certainly a great movie to catch with your significant other, or with just about anybody. My final answer is...
D: It is written.