It’s difficult to write an introductory paragraph to a film that has so many quality elements because it is impossible to choose just one on which to focus. Slumdog Millionaire is one of those special pictures on which everything comes together seamlessly.
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 paralleled 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.
It is impossible to walk away from this film without feeling – your emotions may vary from another’s but their tones will be warm and represented by a smile.