Thursday, February 12, 2009
Being a Danny Boyle fan, it was with some anxiety that I tracked the fortunes of Slumdog Millionaire, a film I looked forward to with relish, feeling that the tandem of Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (who’d previously proven his adeptness at championing the underdog in his scripts for films like The Full Monty and Blow Dry) had the potential to produce something truly special.
I say “anxiety” as there was that period of time when the shuttering of Warner Independent left the film—much like its protagonist Jamal Malik—without a home. Bereft of a theatrical distributor, it seemed, at one point, that Slumdog Millionaire would be sent straight off to the DVD shelves.
But Fox Searchlight came to its eleventh hour rescue, and, just like in a Beaufoy script, the film then went on to become a frontrunner on the critics’ lists, and, at the time of this review’s posting, is also a strong contender for Oscar gold, already having made an impression at the DGA, PGA, and WGA awards.
Having been disappointed by Boyle’s most previous effort, Sunshine, it is with a tremendous sense of elation and relief that I can say Slumdog Millionaire is most certainly worth all the fuss.
With the help of his Indian co-director Loveleen Tandan (who also had a hand in the film’s casting*), Boyle captures the electric life on the streets of Mumbai, through the lens of frequent collaborator, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle.
Supplying the frenetic rhythms of the city’s corrugated tin sprawl are editor Chris Dickens (who’s worked on Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) and composer A.R. Rahman, who make tangible in sight and sound, the pulsing, exuberant heartbeat of this triumphant story of love and destiny, where even during its most exultant moments, the very real ache of sadness and loss is acutely palpable.
The film’s cast must also be recommended, particularly Dev Patel, whose earnest and sincere portrayal of the resolute Jamal Malik, is the lynchpin of this piece.
Never once wavering from his belief and his chosen love, Patel’s Jamal becomes the symbol of hope to an entire, downtrodden populace, proof that the gravity of poverty and circumstance can be defied.
Without a doubt, Slumdog Millionaire is Boyle’s most heart-wrenching and emotionally satisfying work, marrying the visual bravura of all of his films, with the touching and potent narrative of a Beaufoy script, a script that artfully exploits the structure of an installment of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and parallels the evolution of a game show episode with the evolution of a life.
It also makes particularly extraordinary use of one of the most dubious of Bollywood staples, to stirring effect.
Ultimately, Slumdog Millionaire is a heartbreakingly uplifting tale that tells us that love can indeed conquer all, that similarly-led lives can still veer off onto vastly different tangents, that the ties of family can often be the best and the worst things in our lives, and that any dream—no matter how seemingly remote—can come true, if we only have faith in it, and in ourselves.
* Tandan has also cast Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding and Vanity Fair.
Parting shot: At the time of this review’s posting, Slumdog Millionaire has also just taken home 7 awards from the previous weekend’s BAFTA night: Best Film, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Music, Cinematography, Editing, and Sound.
Parting shot 2: Reviews of Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave and Sunshine, as well as 28 Weeks Later (which Boyle produced), can be found in the Archive.
28 Days Later is also discussed in the article "Revelations (Getting at the Truths of Apocalypse Cinema)," which can likewise be found in the Archive.
(Slumdog Millionaire OS courtesy of impawards.com; images courtesy of empireonline.com, ew.com, and latimes.com.)