MOVIE Review: ‘Slumdog Millionaire’

By Emily Hoover |

“Slumdog Millionaire” doesn’t seem like a typical Best Picture winner on the surface. It follows a young, illiterate Indian “slumdog” who luckily wins the grand prize on the world-famous game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” However, the movie is so much more than that. It is a violent, heartbreaking tragedy and a hopeful, captivating love story all at the same time.

It begins with an unsettling torture scene coupled with flashes of colorful memories from the main character’s consciousness. This main character is Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a clever, yet impoverished, young Indian boy. After his mother is murdered during an anti-Muslim massacre, he and his older brother, Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail), a manipulative, conniving brat, face the streets alone. Along the way, despite the reluctance of Salim, they befriend Latika (Freida Pinto), an orphan who inspires Jamal to find love in a hostile world filled with villains, liars and pimps.

After being separated from Salim and Latika, Jamal becomes a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” because he knows that they, like all of India, will be watching. Despite intense accusations of cheating from the sinister host and a local detective, Jamal maintains that he knows the answers because, coincidentally, each question somehow relates to a profound moment in his life.

Director Danny Boyle, of “Trainspotting” and “28 Days Later” fame, includes his signature realism, surrealistic imagery and dark humor in “Slumdog Millionaire.” He succeeds in evoking a response from his audience; he painfully and truthfully juxtaposes a world-famous game show with something infamous: the seedy side of a developing country. Although this film disturbs its viewers, it also shows that hope and love can sustain a person bogged down.

Complete with a brilliant musical score from A.R. Rahman, beautiful cinematography from Anthony Dod Mantel, a breathtakingly sympathetic cast of novice actors and Simon Beaufoy’s wonderful screen adaptation of Vikas Swarup’s novel “Q &A,” this film is so much more than a game. It is a lifeline that will bring hope to all who watch it.

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