January 1, 2009

Raking In Cash

Jeez, what the hell was I missing? Slumdog Millionaire came out about a month and a half ago, received unanimous critical praise, and numerous awards. And I just got around to seeing it. Yeah, what's wrong with me. Well, it was worth the wait.
Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal Malik, a impoverished boy living in India. One day, he is granted a spot to play on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire." No expects him to get very far, he's a slumdog after all. But, to everyone's surprise, he goes farther then anyone has ever gone, raking in the cash. Unfortunately, the authorities don't believe that someone like Jamal could be that smart, and they arrest him. During his interrogation, his life story is revealed as he explains how he answered each question. 
All the actors, especially Dev Patel as Jamal, and Freida Pinto as his love, Latika. Both are very compelling and convincing as these two people, down on their luck, and their love story irresistible. The other main character falls to Madhur Mittal as Jamal's brother, Salim. He's also incredibly good as this ambitious and apparently evil guy. You will despise him throughout the entire movie until he performs the necessary act of redemption. All the performances are fantastic, but, since everyone involved is unknown, they probably won't hear their names being called on Oscar night. 
At first glance, you may think that this is just some Bollywood movie, directed by some guy no one in America has ever heard of. Not so. It is actually directed by Danny Boyle, who, in my opinion, is the most diverse director ever. That may seem like a bold statement, but let's review. Mr. Boyle has tackled the stomach churning drug story (Trainspotting), psychological horror (The Beach), the zombie apocalypse (28 Days Later...), the feel good family flick (Millions), and sci-fi thriller (Sunshine). Yeah, quite a resume. The thing is, he has never really failed at putting his own spin on a well known genre, and Millionaire is no exception. Every scene has that certain flair, that certain look that is custom of Bollywood. All those bright, neon lights of the city, mixed with the brown of the surrounding desert makes this one good looking film. Boyle has always been exceptional at bringing out compelling and interesting characters amid a somewhat ludicrous premise. The premise of Millionaire is a bit more plausible then a group of astronauts creating new sun with a nuke, and this makes the characters seems so much more real. He can't however avoid a cliche ridden third act. As the movie careens towards it's uplifting ending, it throws all those heartwarming cliches, like the girl running answering the phone on the last question to profess her love.  Oh, damn, sorry about that. Even so, it brings a smile to your face. Boyle even throws in a dance sequence in the end credits, as if to remind everyone that this is a Bollywood movie, through and through. Boyle is a masterful director. It's high time he got some recognition.
Slumdog Millionaire is truly a fantastic, moving, visually stunning love story. It's already been placed on many "Best of the Year," lists, and it's definitely going on mine. It's not really groundbreaking, but it is great, certainly Boyle's best. See it. Not only will you see a good movie, but you'll learn some trivia too. A

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