Slumdog Millionaire is one of those special pictures with so many quality elements that brilliantly come together seamlessly. This was validated with endless praise by critics and audiences, four Golden Globes and eight Academy Awards.
Jamal (Dev Patel) is one question away from winning 20 million rupees on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? But when the show breaks, Jamal is arrested for suspicion of cheating – after all, how could an uneducated street kid turned tea server know all the answers? Determined to find the truth, a jaded police inspector (Irrfan Khan) spends the night questioning Jamal on his incredible past, revealing riveting tales of the slums where he and his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) struggled to survive and the heartbreak of losing his only heart’s desire, Latika (Frieda Pinto).
The film is a mesmerizing fairytale, bringing a new and different take of the classic rags-to-riches narrative to the big screen. Jamal is the underdog who must overcome enormous obstacles to reach an inspiring conclusion. The story flawlessly combines comedy, drama, crime and romance, leaving the audience to laugh, cry or gasp at any given moment.
The location is a character on its own. Shot in India, the film shows a realistic depiction of life in one of the many ghettoes, contrasting it with the lavish settings of the studio. It is an interpretation never before captured by a foreign filmmaker. Mumbai is rapidly developing but the poor become poorer and the rich get richer. Filmmakers are able to capture the colour and vibrancy of both worlds.
The young stars of the film are wonderfully-casted unknowns: Patel’s only credit is a role on the British television show Skins; Mittal won an Indian dance-based reality show; and Pinto is a model, recently-turned actress. Moreover, two of the children that play their younger selves were discovered in the slums of Mumbai. Their anonymity is contrasted by Khan, most recently seen in The Namesake, and popular bona-fide Bollywood star Anil Kapoor.
Despite the various genres director Danny Boyle has tackled over the years, his unique vision as an auteur shines through each of them. His dexterity comes from his ability to honestly portray a wide range of emotions without losing the importance of the other elements. Thus, Slumdog Millionaire is not only moving but striking as well.
The DVD special features are many, but not enough. There are two audio commentaries: Boyle and Patel team for one, in which the director talks about shooting in India, providing countless anecdotes that are fascinating and insightful, as the actor takes a backseat piping in only every so often; the other is by writer Simon Beaufoy and producer Christian Colson, who focus more on the structure and mechanics of the film. There are a dozen deleted scenes, most of which were removed from the first two acts of the film; many of these could have been great additions to a director’s cut of the picture, despite its current length of 120 minutes. “Slumdog Dreams: Danny Boyle and the Making of Slumdog Millionaire” is a 22-minute featurette including footage from the set and interview snippets with Boyle. “Slumdog Cutdown” is the movie summed up in five-and-a-half minutes to the Oscar-winning song”Jai Ho.” The biggest disappointment is the total lack of a special feature dedicated to the amazing, award-winning music of the picture.