A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Slumdog Millionaire

August 14, 2010

Slumdog Millionaire

Can you believe that it has taken this long for me to get around to watching Slumdog Millionaire? It boggles the mind, really. How could I work in a video store and never watch this beautiful, touching, terrifying and joyful masterpiece? It’s not like I didn’t know exactly what kind of movie it is. I knew before putting this in what the general gist of the plot was, and because I had talked with customers about it I knew most of the more powerful plot points. And furthermore I absolutely love Trainspotting, so I know that Danny Boyle’s directorial style works with my sensibilities. I bought this movie when it first came out on DVD (I think I probably reserved it ahead of time and bought it on launch day) and ever since it’s been sitting patiently, still in its plastic wrap, for me to watch it.

I doubt that I can really say anything in my review that hasn’t been said a hundred times before about this movie. I suppose I’ll start out by saying that I don’t really consider it a Bollywood film. Certainly it takes place in India, and it has homages to Bollywood such as the closing credits, but it’s no more Bollywood than is Darjeeling Limited. Several years ago Amanda and I were living just outside of Philadelphia and our favorite television station was WYBE (now known as MiND TV.) It was a non-PBS affiliated independent television station, and it had a wonderfully eclectic programming schedule. We mostly watched it for the Dr. Who re-runs, but it had all sorts of other wonderful things. Including the “Asian Movie” which was on, as I recall, every Saturday around 10AM. Sometimes it would be Anime. Sometimes it would be Kung-Fu. Sometimes it would be serious-minded Chinese, Japanese or Korean cinema. And sometimes it would have people in colorful outfits having sword fights, then dancing to sitar music. I always wanted to watch these authentic Bollywood imports, but somehow never seemed to have the time. I regret that. It’s why I so very much want to expand the borders of our collection to include more things I’m not familiar with.

Still, just because this isn’t authentic Bollywood doesn’t mean that it is any less interesting as a film. The movie uses the fascinating scenery of India as not just the background and inspiration for its story but as a character in the film. Sure, the country is not portrayed in a very nice light. The movie is all about orphaned children from the slums of Mumbai. They are chased by police, religious fanatics and underworld gangs. So there’s a lot of footage of children running through narrow streets or subsisting on piles of garbage. There is much in the movie that is unpleasant, and I cannot really judge how accurate a portrayal it is. For me, a privileged foreigner, it seems authentic, and it is certainly the driving force for much of the movie. The India of Slumdog Millionaire is a brutal, crime-filled place, but also a place filled with hope and possibilities.

I love this movie for two primary reasons. First of all is how well constructed the story is. The film rapidly cuts between three related stories. In the present our hero Jamal Malik is being interrogated by a pair of police officers who believe that he has been somehow cheating to get the answers as he appeared on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. This flashes back to Jamal on the program as he is asked increasingly difficult questions. This in turn flashes even further back to tell the story of Malik, his brother Salim, and a young girl who joins the two of them when they are orphaned, Latika. Every question Malik gets asked, you see, has its answer in his past. So the interrogation and the television show lead us through his memories of his life, and slowly begin to reveal why he is on the program at all, and how it is that he’s able to answer every question correctly. It’s a great concept and it’s extremely well done. I found myself being caught up in the adventure of Malik’s life, carried along by the movie just as he is.

The other thing I loved about the movie is it’s tone. As I said before it is ugly and brutal in places, but it also has a hopeful feel. In the end it’s a story about hope and love and destiny. You can’t help cheering along as it approaches its inevitable climax. It’s a movie that makes you want to jump around for joy and it left me with tears of joy streaming down my face. That, in my opinion, is a sign of a great movie.

I’ll admit that I didn’t really watch this movie tonight with an eye towards a detailed review. I got caught up in the experience of it and wasn’t feeling terribly analytical. Suffice to say I loved the movie. I don’t really know why it took so long for me to watch it, because I knew before I even put it in that I was going to love it. Even if it didn’t have enough dancing in it for me.

August 14, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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