Review

Slumdog Millionaire Review

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Jan 12, 2009 | 9:18am EST

Based on the novel Q&A this sharp adaptation tells the tale of a young man Jamal Palik (Dev Patel) who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of the hit game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and ends up being accused of cheating. As we see him beaten into admitting that he “knew” the answers the film darts back and forth in time to show how he came to this place and exactly where the truth lies. We see how Jamal and his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) joined by their female friend Latika (Freida Pinto) grow up in one of the country’s worst slums where they must resort to a spree of petty crimes in order to survive. Later we catch up with them in their teens as they conduct tours of the Taj Mahal and make up tall tales for the unsuspecting visitors. Out of desperation their crimes get more intense as Latika gets herself into big trouble. By the time we get to Jamal’s appearance on the game show it’s clear he has learned what really counts as the tension-driven sequences have him answering questions at a furious pace by the dubious quizmaster (Anil Kapoor). Using a cast of largely unknown actors director Danny Boyle has created an ensemble that exudes freshness and vitality. Outstanding performances come from all the kids who play the main characters of Jamal Latika and Salim at three different ages. They are countered by the adults in the story who also make the most of their juicy roles -- particularly Indian superstar Anil Kapoor playing the shady host of the game show. His scenes on set opposite Patel’s 18 year-old Jamal are riveting and suspenseful beyond any thriller. Both actors play a telekinetic cat-and-mouse game with complete believability. Patel is terrific a real find as is the gorgeous Freida Pinto as the older Latika. Equally effective is Madhur Mittal as the crime-bent older Salim. Irrfan Khan as the determined inspector has his own intense moments while interrogating Jamal. Serious-minded movies rarely get to show off such talented younger actors but Slumdog is virtually a treasure trove in this regard. Danny Boyle’s direction is vibrant alive and pulsating with originality. This director has shown great aptitude for tackling all sorts of different genres from the dark drug-filled Trainspotting to the light-hearted family fare Millions. He’s even done zombies with 28 Days Later. With Slumdog the Brit tackles a completely foreign culture to his own and effortlessly engages us in the plight of these characters. The filmmaking is crisp and cutting-edge with an array of colors and editing choices that put us smack into the center of the story. Cutting back and forth seamlessly between the game show tapings and the flashbacks slowly filling in the answers to Jamal’s ultimate fate  Boyle has crafted a completely original movie-going experience. Ending it all on an upbeat note there’s a great Bollywood-type pop number that ranks as the best musical sequence we’ve seen on film all year. You are guaranteed to leave the theater on a high.

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