Friday, December 19, 2008

"Sometimes I think sitting on trains Every stop I get to I'm clocking that game" REVIEW

Slumdog Millionaire-2008-Danny Boyle


For 10 million rupees, Is Danny Boyle's latest film, Slumdog Millionaire, a real crowd pleaser?
A. Yes
B. No
C. Maybe
D. What's a slumdog?

"uh, this is a tough one" Shawn parlays to the host. "But I think I'm going to go with A..."


The host looks at his monitor for what feels like an eternity. Sweat droplets begin rolling off of Shawn's forehead as if they were auditioning to be a part of Niagara Falls.

Still there is Silence.

"Well, Shawn, I'm sorry to tell you this but...."

Silence yet again.

"You're absolutely right!!!!"

Crowd Cheers!

Slumdog Millionaire is a fairytale through and through. Albeit, a rather unconventional fairytale as we, the audience, are asked to sit through considerable amounts of fighting, torture, and sadness to reach the films ultimate conclusion. Following Jamal Malik, as he is a player on the Hindi version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? The government finds it hard to believe that someone of his low stature could possibly know the answers to the questions he is being asked. With a wonderful episodic structure, Boyle is able to show us how we truly learn things through experiencing life. The life that is truly lived is worth a million dollars.

What Boyle really does right here is that he realizes just because you have a story about poverty or third world orphans, you don't have to make it somber. While the film does strike it's somber notes at all the "right"(I put this in quotations as I feel these moments are a little too calculated) moments, a smile is kept on the viewer throughout the duration of the film.

This film really reminded me of the Disney fairy tales I watched as a child. Aladdin, Pinocchio, Beauty and The Beast, these films all asked serious questions of it's viewer but at the same time took them on a journey, ultimately leading them to their happily ever after ending.

What strikes me is the way in which Boyle(or probably the author of the book the film is based off of Q and A) portrays destiny within the film. When destiny is spoken of, it is generally said by the characters as being written. This is said quite a few times throughout the movie. One could argue that the film is in fact written, they are acknowledging that and commenting on that fact. This is obviously a film where suspension of disbelief is needed to allow for the viewer to be moved. I think they wanted to recognize that very sentiment. The film also comments, shortly, on God. Salim, Jamal's brother, does some pretty terrible things throughout the film's duration. He is also seen doing a few heroic things, but is a very guilty person. This is the only character that ever mentions God and it happens at two interesting points late in the film. If the film is written by a God-like creator called a screenwriter, who created this universe and knows exactly what will happen. Does God write destiny in our universe? This is all presupposing that God is real. While I gain something from this aspect, as I believe He is, a viewer with little or no affiliation to God in anyway, or no belief, would probably be of no interest in this theory.

Following that same subject, the film also reminded me of an Old Testament Bible story. The two brothers get at each other almost like a Cain and Able, or Issac and Ishmael. With tragedy and warmth destiny, or God's providence, or whatever it is you may want to call it, is shown by stories end.

White folk are satirized slightly within the film. A few key scenes show our utter naivety and/or ignorance of other cultures, which work surprisingly well and don't come off as heavy handed or unoriginal.

Where the film will ultimately lose people is in it's conclusion. I am afraid to say, against all judgment, I became totally engrossed in what finally happens with the characters. I believe it gets so many things right that a recent film like Twilight gets so wrong, and that is, how true love works. Even though it is a little contrived, the characters love for each other doesn't seem to be that way simply because that's what's supposed to happen for the story to work. It's truly an organic thing that lives within the film. It may seem far fetched or pointless for some, but if allow it, it can be totally riveting.

Every little episode Boyle and co-director Loveleen Tandan gives us doesn't always work, but in each one their is a bit of joy to be found. With a mish mash of culture and language, the filmmakers do beautifully capture it by using a variety of techniques. While I found myself feeling a little more lost than excited during some of the action sequences, most of the time these techniques served the story wonderfully.

The films overarching universal themes can be a little in your face at times, but, the sheer optimism of the film was enthralling and burnt a smile onto my face for hours after the credits rolled.

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