Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire
By Matthew Huntley
November 19, 2008
After a tragic incident leaves Jamal and Salim orphaned, they forge their way through life as street urchins, earning money and food wherever they can, whether it's begging citizens on the streets, standing atop moving trains to steal from the cars below, or posing as tour guides at the Taj Mahal. Along the way, they meet an orphaned girl named Latika, whom Jamal falls in love with and vows to always protect, even at his young age. Throughout his life, he will lose Latika at least three times, but she's permanently implanted in his heart and mind.
I've left out a crucial and disturbing plot development when Jamal and Salim are young, but I will not reveal it here. You'll know it when you see it and I believe such acts of cruelty really occur in a place as devastating and poor as Mumbai. I have not read Vikas Swarup's novel, Q and A, on which this film is based, but I believe it contains the same hard truth as the film, that it served as inspiration.
It's important to note the hardships Jamal, Salim and Latika experience are hardly pleasant. This isn't a kiddie adventure film, but a serious coming of age story with grave implications. We must remember these kids do what they do to survive.
Jamal is at the center of it all. Through his strength of will, good faith and humility, we grow to care for him. Against all odds, he chases after anything he needs, with his own spirit and love for Latika driving him. He eventually ends up on his own after Salim and Latika make friends with Mumbai's head gangster. They come into a life of wealth but also servitude. Years later, Jamal finds them and tries to reach Latika the only way he knows how...
In regards to the storytelling, Slumdog Millionaire is brilliant. The flashback technique completely engages us while the technical aspects - photography, editing, music, special effects - aid and enhance the viewing experience to one of supreme greatness. Boyle and his director of photography, Anthony Dod Mantle, go to extreme lengths to get their shots, which, coupled with Chris Dickens' flashy editing style, place us in the middle of a chaotic, modern India, and it's thrilling and absorbing.
Above all, Slumdog never stops believing in the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity. The most important thing Boyle does is continually bring us back to Jamal's love for life and Latika. He builds a lot of tension in the way he suspends and gradually reveals how Jamal came to know the answers to the Millionaire questions. We're completely immersed at all times and from all sides.
Slumdog Millionaire is the kind of film that excites me about going to the movies. It's enormously entertaining and, by the end, projects a feeling of elation. Though it's not always pleasant viewing, it contains a positive and hopeful energy. If you followed my advice, you already saw the film before finishing this review. And if you're like me, you've already told your friends about it. Now stop and consider how happy and exhilarated you are. What a wonderful and glorious thing it would be if everyone saw Slumdog Millionaire.