Thursday, January 29, 2009

Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Disclaimer: I'm writing this in a less than well state. I'll probably see this movie again when I feel better. We'll see if anything changes then.

Slumdog Millionaire
Released: November 12, 2008 (US, Limited), RP: TBA
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

I expected a lot from this movie. I’ve heard such great reviews and it’s been hoarding awards left and right so I was sure that this would be the greatest movie ever. I wanted to see it but I never really knew what it was about until I finally saw it today.

This movie has got me so pleasantly surprised that I can’t even put my thoughts into words. The movie is a giant disguised as an elf. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, something wonderful happens. I feel like one of the extras from an elaborate Bollywood dance sequence. I’m left with nothing but stars in my eyes.

Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal Malik, an uneducated boy from India turned overnight celebrity as he lands a spot on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” He does exceptionally well and after 10 million rupees, the show breaks for the night and he is arrested for suspicion of fraud. After all, how could a poor boy from the slums know things that most educated people do not?

In an effort to prove his innocence, he tells the story of his childhood and how each moment in his life has somehow contributed to his answers on the show. In the end you get an increasingly layered tale of dreams, violence, sacrifice, love, forgiveness and life in the slums. Each character breathes life into the picture and much like in the game show, the audience is left with no choice but to sit and wait with bated breath for what will happen next.

Dev Patel is no stranger to most people. You may recognize him as Anwar Kharral in the British teen drama series Skins. In this movie, he is nothing like Kharral. He exudes a boyish charm that is just impossible to ignore. You get the feeling that you want him to succeed, no matter how impossible his challenges may be. As the movie explores more complicated plot lines, he is constantly the sane voice- one that audiences everywhere can relate to.

The children were wonderful, too. At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Freida Pinto thanked all the children in the movie. Ayush Mahesh Khedekar as young Jamal was absolutely adorable as were all the kids in the movie. They set up the characters in such a way that their adult counterparts didn’t have to act too hard to make the story believable.

I never really liked India. I’ve never really been there but based on the little stories and times I’ve seen it on TV, it doesn’t seem like such a nice place. After seeing this movie however, I’ve gotten to know the quirkier side of India. In Slumdog Millionaire, India is a character. It breathes, acts, and at times even sings to the rhythm of the story. This movie didn’t really feature India’s glamorous side. Instead, we see a more personal side, teeming with humanity. If only for that, I wouldn’t mind visiting this Asian country soon.

Over-all, it’s a beautiful movie. One I didn’t expect to enjoy but did nonetheless. At first glance, it just seems like another tale of rags to rajas but under the surface, there’s more. If you have ever believed in the power of dreams, this movie is for you.