Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Canon Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire

In continuing with our celebration of 100 posts at The Canon Review, I decided that it would be interesting to look up the 100th ranked movie on the IMDB Top 250 list and watch that movie. As of today, the 100th ranked movie is Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog Millionaire won 8 Oscars in 2008, only the eighth film to win that many Oscars. The movie is directed by Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Trainspotting) and stars Dev Patel, Frieda Pinto, Madhur Mittal, and Anil Kapoor. Here are a few thoughts of mine about this film, and there are probably going to be spoilers, so you have been warned.

- The movie is about a kid from the slums of Mumbai, India, Jamal Malik (Patel) who appears on the show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, and does quite well at it. Because of his social status, he is suspected of cheating and arrested. The police try to draw a confession out of him through torture, but Jamal eventually gets to explain how he knew each answer. As it happened, each question seemed to relate to a very important event in Jamal's life, a story which the police chief describes as "bizarrely plausible" before letting Jamal go. Now, I wonder what exactly are the odds of those questions asked synching up so compatibly with Jamal's life story, but since this is ultimately a story of destiny, I'm not going to spend too much time questioning it.

- The portrayal of life in the slums of Mumbai is just brutal. Without revealing too much of the plot, I'll just say that Jamal, as well as his brother Salim (Mittal) and their friend Latika (Pinto), do not have an easy time of things. They find themselves having the scratch and claw for whatever they can find and are constantly at the mercy of people that, shall we say, are evil. Particularly evil is Maman, a man who tricks kids into joining his begging syndicate. Maman's most despicable act in the movie is taking kids that show a talent for singing, and then blinding them with acid so that they could earn more money. That scene was quite troubling, I must say.

- The movie's story focuses on the relationship between Jamal and Latika, and how the two are somehow destined to be together, no matter the circumstances. That's fine, but one slight problem that I had with the film is that we really don't know a whole lot about Latika. I guess it's because the story's told from Jamal's point of view, but Latika just seemed to come and go whenever it was convenient in the storyline, and the result is that she ends up being an underdeveloped character. That's just my opinion.

- After Jamal keeps getting question after question right, even the one where the host gave him a fraudulent answer, the host (Kapoor) turns him in for cheating. Two things here: First, I wonder if cheating on a game show is such a crime that they had to put a bag over Jamal and whisk him away in a helicopter, and second, after Jamal is released and allowed to come back on the show for the final question, I would think things would be really awkward between Jamal and the host.

- Speaking of the host of Millionaire, Kapoor does an excellent job of playing him. He plays the host with the right amount of personality and flash, while at the same time he brings a subtlety in his performance that lets you know even from the beginning that he's not exactly fond of Jamal and looks down upon him due solely to his status. Also, the kids playing young Jamal, Samil, and Latika do an excellent job as well, playing their characters with both seriousness and childlike wonder whenever the script called for them to do. 

- The credits had Jamal and Latika along with a whole bunch of others doing a dance number to the song "Jai Ho", which won the Oscar for best original song in a film. It's not awful or anything, but to me it seemed kind of odd because it didn't really fit in with the rest of the movie. It's not as if Jamal was dancing and singing the whole movie. Eh, maybe I'm just reading too much into it.

Overall, this movie has some minor flaws, as the story is kind of slow to develop, and it seems impossible that all of the questions asked to Jamal would not only directly relate to his life, but do so in chronological order. However, the movie in whole is just great, I think. The story may not be exactly realistic, but it is compelling and powerful, the directing by Boyle was top notch, and there wasn't a bad performance by any of the actors. The movie really draws you in and makes you root for Jamal, Latika, and Salim. Overall, I'll give the movie an 8.5 out of 10. I don't know if it deserved to win 8 Oscars, but it was one heck of a film.

Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any ideas for future posts, than let me know about them either by e-mailing me, or by leaving it in the comments section.

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