Slumdog Millionaire is set among the slums of Mumbai, India so you wouldn’t naturally think it would be a candidate for best film of the year, but you’d be wrong.
The film follows the story of how impoverished Indian teen Jamal Malik (a “slumdog”) became a contestant on the Hindi version of “Who Wants to be A Millionaire?” — an endeavor made without prize money in mind, rather, an effort to prove his love for his friend Latika, who is an ardent fan of the show.
The film starts near the end of the story. Malik is arrested after getting to one question away from winning Who Wants to be a Millionaire, accused of cheating. The allegation is simple: how can a kid from the slums possibly know all the answers. The movie follows Malik’s recollection of how he came to know the answers, the telling of his life from the slums of Mumbai, the murder of his mother in an anti-Muslim rampage, through to his rise to being an assistant in a call center.
The film is classified as British, with Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine) directing, and UK actor Dev Patel starring, although the film was shot on location in India. It is based on the book Q and A written by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup, and Indian director Loveleen Tandan was location director and officially co-director.
This isn’t a Bollywood film, even if there are some elements (and the credits pay homage with a traditional Indian film dance), and yet it taps in to Indian culture in a way not really seen in movies shown in the West, showing the lows and highs of life in the world’s largest democracy.
The screenplay and storytelling are masterful. What in many films may have been too rich a story is perfectly blended in painting a picture that is is both raw, and yet compelling.
The critical reviews for the film are remarkably strong. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 94%, and the film has won numerous awards at film festivals and dedicated awards events such as best film from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. It’s up for Best Picture Drama at the Golden Globes, and is being talked about as a real contender for best film at the Academy Awards.
Let me say simply that the awards are deserved, and if it isn’t a finalist at the Academy Awards, the system is broken.
This is without doubt the best movie I’ve seen this year. It’s an uplifting tale, rich in character, story and visuals. It is one of those rare movies that I found myself emotionally attached to the story line, and I know that at the end I cheered alongside my wife who felt the same way.
If there’s one movie you watch early in 2009, make it Slumdog Millionaire, you won’t be sorry.
We’ve run it previously, but here’s the Slumdog Millionaire Trailer if you’d like a taste.