Slumdog Millionaire (2008)*


Starring: Dev Patel (his first feature film), Freida Pinto (her first feature film), Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Saurabh Shukla, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar (his first film), Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail (his first film), Ankur Vikal, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala (his first film), Rubina Ali (her first film), Tanay Chheda

Director: Danny Boyle

Summary: A Mumbai teen reflects on his upbringing in the slums when he is accused of cheating on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

Other Nominations: Director*, Adapted Screenplay*, Original Score*, Original Song (“Jai Ho”)*, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing*, Cinematography*, Film Editing*

What makes the film something worth watching is how the score, cinematography and editing all blend together so well and give everything a wonderful energy throughout, even when the film goes to some very dark places. It’s an interesting mix of the harsh reality of abject poverty and what’s close to a storybook fantasy of fate and destiny, where everything feels consistent in style and tone and the framing device screenplay structure works well for the story. One thing that I think the film got right is how it depicted children: no matter who or where they are, kids are remarkably resilient; they don’t really wallow in how bad their circumstances are or their regrets, only teenagers and adults really do that. It was for that reason that I think the segments involving the characters as young children were probably the strongest.

However, if there is something negative to say about the film, it’s that I can see why a lot of people from India did not like it: the films’ depiction of the country as a whole is for the most part, relentlessly negative. It’s always going to be controversial when an outsider (especially one from the colonial power who used to rule over that country) tries to represent someone else’s culture, but outside of our male and female lead, nearly every Indian person in the film is violent and/or an asshole and the film mostly shows India as a land of almost nothing besides extreme poverty or extreme opulence (the latter part being mostly true actually even if it’s starting to slowly change). While you could argue that this only makes sense given the story they were trying to tell, it also says something that THIS is the story that you decided to tell, and that THIS is the one that got made into a Hollywood film and got huge critical acclaim.

This is a movie that is great at what it is trying to be-a sort of uplifting fairytale story about a person with an indomitable spirit that cannot be crushed by his circumstances featuring a lot of energetic elements that work perfectly together…but with some elements at its core that really rub me the wrong way.

Rating: B-

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