There Are Three Movies In “Slumdog Millionaire” & All Of Them Are Great
Director Danny Boyle’s movies have been all over the map. He’s done trippy (“Trainspotting”), horror (“28 Days Later”), and heart (“Millions”). Now, he literally goes all over the map with the India-based “Slumdog Millionaire” and, thanks to a brilliant script by Simon Beaufoy, manages to combine many thematical elements into what should be a highly successful crowd pleaser.
There has been lots of hype surrounding this movie. Is it as automatic as a Best Picture nomination as bloggers/critics have said? Hmmm…
As the title here reads, there are indeed three different movies in “Slumdog Millionaire” (perhaps more!). This movie combines a love story, a coming of age story, tragedy, redemption, and even a social message in a non-linear fashion, which can leave some people a bit behind. This type of story could have been told very poorly and the people behind the scenes really kept this movie together. In this case, the script, editing, and direction is so flawless that there never is any confusion and you know exactly what is happening to every single character.
Of course, there really aren’t many characters to follow. The story revolves around Jamal, his shaky relationship with his older brother Salim, his true love Latika, and his appearance as a contestant on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”. From the very start, you are aware that Jamal is one question away from winning 20 million Rupies on the show. Unfortunately for him, the show’s host (Anil Kapoor, brilliantly cheesy and sleazy) doesn’t really believe that Jamal is being truthful. Jamal is arrested and questioned by a policeman (Irfan Khan) and during this interrogation, we learn through flashbacks how Jamal learned the answers to each of the questions from the show.
While the themes I mentioned earlier are present throughout, the one constant is the idea of destiny. While Jamal is definitely not a simpleton, it could have been very difficult to believe that he learned the answers to these questions at different moments of his life. For instance, he learned that a man named Colt invented the revolver because a person told him so while he pointed a revolver at him. Each of the answers that Jamal gives are because of circumstances like that one. You could almost call Jamal the Indian Forrest Gump as he benefited from every moment of his life, whether it be happy or tragic.
“Slumdog Millionaire” also shows the brutal socio-economic conditions of India. I was very taken aback by the cities and the slums that Jamal and Salim grow up living in. There are issues of poverty, child abduction and coercion, and the awful living conditions of the poor throughout the movie, but none are ever intentionally brought in. It’s as if the conditions of the poor in India are a character all to itself. It also shows some of the lighter things common to India, such as the call center, which is complete with signs of famous neighborhoods such as Piccadilly or Manhattan to tell the employees where they are calling from.
There are many critics that are doing virtual back-flips for “Slumdog Millionaire”. It’s great and it should garner some deserved awards talk, particularly the editing, directing, and writing. While it is great, I don’t hold it in any higher regard than a movie like “Once”, which one could argue was in a similar situation last year. Since “Once” was shut out wrongfully by the Academy last year (other than the no-brainer Best Song), will the Academy recognize a movie with heart? They probably should. Should they recognize it with a Best Picture win? Probably not. It’s still not the best movie I have seen all year. That distinction still belongs to the movie with the guy in the rubber bat suit.
That being said, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a compelling and interesting look at life and fate. It gives Danny Boyle a chance to show off his directorial skills and, if there is enough good word of mouth, it could get people to see a movie they wouldn’t normally see. This could be the type of movie that takes off, much like “Juno” last year.
Cinematically Correct note: There have been some complaints from the filmmakers regarding the R-rating of this movie. There is enough violence, especially some particularly jarring moments involving kids, that definitely warrants the R.