FILM REVIEW: Slumdog Millionaire

The independent film Slumdog Millionaire is about to receive an Oscar nomination. Is it:

a.) a heartwarming rags to riches tale of a boy from the slums.
b.) a predictable plot-driven story which relies on an old school gimmick.
c.) an exotic tale of romance, which spotlights the diverse change in a growing region.
d.) all of the above.

Well, as you may have guessed the answer is d.) all of the above, but despite it’s shortcomings the film is a great success and a big winner just like it’s heroic main character, Jamal Malik. The film, which was directed by Englishman Danny Boyle, follows the lives of three young children from the slums of Mumbai, India (formerly known as Bombay) as they come of age in a changing nation.

The story begins on the set of India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” where the protagonist, Jamal sits about to win 20 million rupees and the plot is told through a series of flashbacks as the police forcibly question him about how he knew the answers. The main character Jamal is played by Dev Patel as an adult and Tanay Chheda, and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar as a youth and he is something like a smarter Indian version of Forest Gump. The object of his affection is Latika (played by the gorgeous Freida Pinto as an adult and the adorable Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar and Rubiana Ali as a youth) who is lost throughout much of the film vying to survive. Jamal’s less honorable elder brother Salim (played by Saurabh Shukla as an adult along with Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail as a youth) acts much like a counterpoint to Jamal at every critical moment and completes the main trio of characters.

The story is complex as the film occurs over many years but underneath it all the film is a classic tale of absolute determination and love amidst impossible means. It is a film about believing in one’s destiny and it is this theme, which results in the audience’s willingness to suspend their disbelief. The acting is often necessarily flat but the younger actors deserve mention because it is through them, that the audience grows attached to the characters. Without question the film is a gimmick, but an extremely well crafted gimmick and although the voyage is as impossible as the result is predictable, the film remains fun to watch.

Tim Needles

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