Review: Slumdog Millionaire (2009)

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire: Simply Brilliant

Rating: 4 out of 5

Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan

Director: Danny Boyle

Slumdog Millionaire opens with 18-year-old slum kid Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) being arrested on suspicion of cheating after being one question away from winning Rs. 20 million on India’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? After enduring some rather nasty torture, he tells the police officer (Irrfan Khan) the story of his life, where incredibly, each episode holds the key to one of the questions he’s answered.

Jamal’s story begins in the Mumbai slums, where he was orphaned, along with his brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail), when their mother was killed in a religious uprising. Later, Jamal and Salim survive by living by their wits on the streets, until Jamal falls in love with Latika (Rubina Ali), a young orphan girl who is destined to come between them.

Slumdog Millionaire is skillful entertainment, with the simple message that the most intense life experiences yield the greatest education. Though the story elements are objectively melodramatic – orphans thrown into the cruel world, brother against brother, a long-delayed romance and a rags-to-riches journey – the film feels bracingly rude, and as lively as a whirling kaleidoscope. Simon Beaufoy’s script (adapted from a best-selling novel by Vikas Swarup) cleverly weaves together several different timelines and the finale brilliantly incorporates all the tension already inherent in the Millionaire set-up.

Boyle’s direction is genuinely impressive; every scene crackles with energy and he really captures the vibrant atmosphere of the various Indian cities. He also orchestrates some truly astonishing sequences, from a thrilling chase through the slums to a nail-bitingly tense sequence. Boyle gets terrific performances from his young cast: three actors play each of the lead roles (Jamal, Salim and Latika) and they’re all astonishing, particularly Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, who’s genuinely heartbreaking as the youngest Jamal. There’s also strong support from Irrfan Khan and Anil Kapoor, who’s brilliantly slimy as the game show host.

Do yourself a favour – just don’t miss this film at any cost and as soon you do, just ‘phone a friend’ and suggest him the same.

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