movie film review | chris tookey

Slumdog Millionaire

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  Slumdog Millionaire Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
7.89 /10
Jamal Malik (older) Dev Patel , Latika (older) Freida Pinto
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Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Simon Beaufoy , based on the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup

Released: 2008
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: UK/ US
Colour: C
Length: 116

A tremendous feelgood movie.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Many tipped Slumdog Millionaire to win an Oscar for Best Film. In a none too great year for serious films, it succeeded. It certainly deserved to win many hearts with its mixture of exhilarating romance, shocking melodrama and rags-to-riches fairytale. There werenít any other films in its year that were this vibrant or energetic.

Though much of the dialogue is flat, functional and disappointingly lacking in spice, the script is ingeniously structured by Simon Beaufoy, whose best work this is since The Full Monty. Heís expanded the love interest and given a sense of progression to Vikas Swarupís patchy, episodic novel Q&A. He deserved his Oscar.

Director Danny Boyle is much helped by outstandingly fluid and colourful work from Anthony Dod Mantle (who won win the Academy Award for cinematography), a driving, modern, cheerfully raucous score by A.R. Rahman (a double Oscar-winner) and an endearing central performance from Dev Patel, most familiar to youthful British audiences through his TV performance on Skins.

Patel (pictured left) plays Jamal, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who appears on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. He has wangled his way on to the show not to get rich quick, but to renew contact with the girl he has loved but lost (Freida Pinto, pictured right). She has been sold into prostitution but is such a fan of the quiz that he hopes she will be watching.

When we first see him, Jamal has already won through to the final question on the show, with its top prize of 20 million rupees. As a reward, the police are torturing him. They are sure he must have cheated. But under interrogation, he reveals the unlikely truth: that his poverty-stricken upbringing and petty criminal past have provided him with all the knowledge he needed to answer the questions.

Cue lots of flashbacks in neatly historical order, intercut with the tension of the quiz itself.

A number of commentators have hailed the film as Dickensian. There are echoes of Oliver Twist as our hero and his elder brother eke out an existence on a rubbish dump and fall into the hands of an Indian Fagin, who thinks nothing of blinding a child so he can become a more pathetic-looking beggar.

The film doesnít measure up to the great Victorian novelist when it comes to depth, texture or social analysis. There is a glibness in the way dire poverty is made to look picturesque. The gangsters are drawn from stock. The central love story is as lazily cliched as you would find in any second-rate Bollywood movie.

A writer of Dickensí quality would have radiated more anger at the poverty on display, and at the casual brutality on both sides of the law. He would have ensured that the subsidiary characters were more original, and given the insincere quizmaster (played with creepy unctuousness by Anil Kapoor) a more satisfactory come-uppance.

Though never averse to the odd implausibility himself, Dickens might also have made the story less preposterous Ė it is dependent on an extraordinary succession of coincidences.

The author it most reminded me of, in its tale of two brothers taking different tracks in life, its inexhaustible energy and its tendency to exploit the publicís feelings rather than explore them, is Jeffrey Archer.

But the tale is told with such panache that only a curmudgeon would refuse to be swept along by it.

It resembles Australia in being able to breathe new life into old national cliches. And, like Baz Luhrmannís movie, itís the kind of film that reminds us why the vast majority of us go to the cinema: not to find fault, but to be entertained, touched and uplifted.

The chances are that, unless youíre a devotee of Bollywood pictures, you wonít have seen anything like it. Whatever its shortcomings as high art and deep social commentary, Slumdog works very effectively as the most optimistic of feelgood movies. Itís certainly the best of that kind since Mamma Mia! and just as sure to be a worldwide hit.

Is it a great movie? For me, it falls well short. But I donít see how anyone could deny that Slumdog Millionaire is terrific, exhilarating, inspirational entertainment.

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