Tuesday, 13 January 2009

REVIEW: Slumdog Millionaire

Brilliant! Gorgeous! Emotional! Funny!

All of these words were flying through my mind during Danny Boyle’s latest film and I left the cinema with a feel-good spring in my step. The sort of my spring you only get after watching a really good film. Yes, I can confirm, that Slumdog Millionaire is every bit as good as the five-star reviews led me to believe.

I now consider myself a big campaigner for this film and could not be happier with its plethora of Golden Globes from Sunday’s ceremony: Best Director, Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Score. All four are well-deserved. And let’s hope the Oscars get it right this year.

So why does it work so well? A poor kid winning money on the Indian equivalent to Who Want’s To Be A Millionaire? Sounds pretty formulaic right? And it certainly could have been. But when did Danny Boyle ever pick a bad book to adapt? Joining both Trainspotting and The Beach before it, Vikas Swarup’s novel Q and A has now been given the Boyle-treatment and it shines.

The trailers could be deemed misleading, as it comes across as a fluffy rags-to-riches story via everyone’s favourite quiz show. But the quiz show is simply a narrative structure that allows our hero Jamal (Dev Patel, recommended by Boyle’s daughter after watching Skins) to tell his life story to his interrogators while being accused of cheating. And it works really well.

And what a life story! Jamal has seen it all: his mother murdered by extremist Hindus, orphans having their eyes burned out, his brother Salim commit murder, repeatedly losing the love of his life (Frieda Pinto). He even swims through shit! Therefore, don’t expect a family-friendly comedy.

Nevertheless, it is deservedly labelled the feel-good film of the year. For all of the grittiness of life in Mumbai, you get moments of hope and a lot of humour. The aforementioned swimming-through-shit moment is hilarious, disgusting and makes you feel like cheering all at once. Boyle might have even topped his Ewan McGregor shit-swimming in Trainspotting.

And I agree with Empire: it certainly is his best film since Trainspotting. Boyle is leading the Brits towards the Oscars with Kate Winslet at his side and after the Globes, things are looking good. His direction is superb. Mumbai is a colourful mix of half-built slums, gorgeous sunsets & eclectic skylines and Boyle’s lens captures it all.

He is also making movie stars of more-unknowns – he has such a good eye for talent and introduced us to Ewan McGregor, Cillian Murphy and now Dev Patel. Patel’s performance is moving, heartfelt, charming and many other things. It is incredible to think that he only get into acting because his Mum made him attend the open auditions for Skins. Frieda Pinto, a professional model, is gorgeous as the love-interest Latika and the five-year old versions of the two brothers are so good! They carry the first third of the movie and you end up being a little bit disappointed when they grow up into different actors.

Also, Boyle’s other great talent: Master of the Movie Soundtrack. Who can forget Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ (Trainspotting) and Moby’s ‘Porcelain’ (The Beach)? It looks like ‘Paper Planes’ by M.I.A will be joining them. And for that matter, everything in A.R. Rahman’s score.

My final answer: this film works. Historically, the Golden Globes are usually more on-the-ball than the Oscars. But hopefully this will be a year when British talent and unconventional stories grab the Academy’s attention. And even if Slumdog does not win anything further, it will outlast any Oscar-baiting films for many years to come.

Phone a friend and go see this film. It has set the standard for 2009.

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