Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Lifeline": A review of "Slumdog Millionaire," (2008, dir. by Danny Boyle, co-dir. by Loveleen Tandan)

"Who wants to be a millionaire?" I was a (poor) kid living in not-too-small-town South Carolina when I first heard that question asked. Like the rest of America, my family and I enthusiastically watched night after night as ordinary Joes like ourselves sat down in the hot seat, answering questions we could answer, winning money we would never have. I don't remember being envious, though. I remember the excitement of the next question, hanging on every pause, holding my breath when Regis asked "Is that your final answer?"

Jamal Malik is in the hot seat in Mumbai (nee Bombay). An orphan from the slums of Mumbai, Jamal , now sits one question away from 20 million rupees. The show runs out of time for the night, but rather than being spirited off to a studio hotel room, Jamal is thrown to the police for "interrogation." How could a former "slumdog" who now serves chai to telemarketers at those infamous Indian phone banks - how can he know the answers? "What is the God Rama usually pictured holding in his hand?" "Who invented the revolver?" "What American statesman's face is on the front of the American 100 bill?" Truth is, Jamal has been in the hot seat his whole life, and he knows the answers because of the horrors he's lived. He slowly tells his story to the police, and we quickly get sucked into the heights and depths of his life.

I could say more of course. I could tell you about his brother Salim or about the girl Jamal has loved from his youth, but why say more? This movie amazed me in a way I have difficulty describing. Maybe it's the dazzling camera work that Danny Boyle (Millions, Trainspotting) and his co-director for the India shots, Loveleen Tandan (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair), cook up so effortlessly, sweeping us from the bottom of a sewage dump to the tippy-top of the Taj Mahal. Maybe it's the way that Boyle and Tandan show us the real Mumbai, a city where glory and gore live side by side, (as pointed out by Roger Ebert.) The Indian dance soundtrack (accented by the Sri Lankan border-crosser M.I.A.) is also worth noting/purchasing from iTunes.

As the film raced for its conclusion, I found myself asking the question, "Is the movie going to have a Bollywood or a Hollywood ending?" By Hollywood, I specifically refer to the nouveau Hollywood ending, that one where nothing works out. It's a question that you will have to answer for yourself as you watch. Slumdog Millionaire is a lifeline. Watch this film.

My ranking: 93 out of 100.

For further praise: NBR names "Slumdog" film of the year.

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At 12:55 PM , Blogger Laura said...

Did you cry? I heard it was a serious tear-jerker.

At 10:51 AM , Blogger Ecygtheow said...

No tears (maybe misty, I can't remember), but it definitely had my stomach flip-flopping.


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