Directed by: Danny Boyle
Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal
Running Time: 1 hr, 50 mins
Plot: The success story of a poor Indian boy (Patel) is coincidentally told through the questions he must answer while on India’s own “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”.
Who’s It For? This is for anyone who likes a little "twist" on their Dickensian rags to riches stories. Slumdog shares the same arc as many tales before it, but is unlike nearly every movie of its kind. It is worth the adventurous view.
Expectations: Other than Darren Aronofsky's The Wrester, Slumdog Millionaire was apparently the other critical winner at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.
Dev Patel as Jamal Malik: Patel is actually British, but plays the innocent Mumbai born and raised Jamal with great conviction. His powerful story of a character surprised at his own fate is (like Latika and Jamal's brother Salim), complimented by impressive performances from younger actors playing the same part. Patel's moments on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" are his most sincere, especially with his "deer-in-the-headlights" looks of wholesome confusion.
Freida Pinto as Latika: The beautiful Latika is Jamal's dream girl that is always just out of reach. Poverty may be the underlying tragedy of Slumdog, but Pinto's emotional performance makes the seemingly doomed relationship between Jamal and Latika the film's real heartbreaking focus.
Madhur Mittal as Salim: His earlier versions create this character to be innocent, but Mittal's gangster form of Salim is that of a deviant young man with his own dreams of being a Millionaire. Like many of the actors in this film, Mittal is an impressive young force who will earn international recognition when Slumdog hits the streets.
Talking: Instead of using drab yellow subtitles at the bottom of the screen, (1/3 of the film is in Hindi), Boyle tosses his subtitles all over the place, mostly next to characters' faces. It makes reading convenient, and its innovation adds even more to the unique experience of Slumdog Millionaire.
Sights: Comparatively unique to the handling of the story is how director Danny Boyle presents it. The film is full of frantic cinematography that never hesitates to tilt or speed through its claustrophobic settings. Rushing handheld cameras grapple the excitement in scenes as they speed through the busy streets of Mumbai.
Sounds: Accompanying the visuals is the film's modern international soundtrack that includes thumping club techno. In general, the music of Slumdog is very fresh and sophisticated, its usage of songs like M.I.A's popular "Paper Planes" an interesting emphasis on the film's dreams about wealth and "the good life". The film also has the most exciting end credit sequence I've seen this year.
A unique story fills in between Slumdog's the classic beginning and ending. The events of Jamal's life are told in three intersecting ages, but no part seems stilted or particularly weak. Boyle's vision gives the plot a great vibrancy that other directors could never match. Many would feel confined by the tightness of Mumbai, but Danny Boyle's vision is similar to an unstoppable rubber ball that bounces off every wall possible.
His previous film, Sunshine, was a beautiful but polarizing sci-fi endeavor that did poorly with American audiences. Now, with times of economic roughness, he has made a real life fairy tale of a film that can cheer-up its financially frustrated stateside audience - should they choose to seek it.
Final Score: 7/10