Is there such a thing as seeing too many films??? Am I getting to that point? I don't think so, but maybe…
After all the hype around this film I was really looking forward to seeing it. The fact that it won the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture heightened my anticipation even more. Maybe due to all the buildup by people who had already seen it I was slightly disappointed by the film. I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would.
What struck me most about the film was the tender and pure love story at the centre of it. It was totally tender, for lack of a better word. Jamal (Dev Patel) is on the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" because he figures that Latika (Freida Pinto), the love of his life, will be watching it and they will be reunited as a result.
The issue of love in the face of the greatest of adversities is a theme that runs throughout the film. The love between brother and brother and man and woman are both looked at. What are you willing to sacrifice for love? Can love go on despite horrible circumstances and surroundings? Would you turn your back on your only relative for money and power? Thankfully, even though there is plenty of romance there are none of the usual clichés to bog it down. Though there are plenty of comedic moments in the film, there are also plenty of heavy issues.
Jamal is a unique human being in that he is not driven by the money, but by love. He does so well on the game show that he is up to 5 million rupees and will be going for 10 million on the next show – the most ever by anyone. The star of the show believes Jamal to be cheating so he turns him over to the police who rough him up and even electrocute him to try to get him to admit that he cheated. Jamal won't budge. Finally, the police inspector (Irrfan Khan) sits him down and gets Jamal to explain how he knew the answers. The story Jamal tells is the story of his life and is incredible.
When stories have been told about the slums in many parts of the world they have all been rather similar and depressing. Director Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" is anything but. It is uplifting and told in an original and fresh way. Boyle creates an entire world right in front of your eyes and you are eating out of the palm of his hand by the end of it. Yes, Jamal, his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) and Latika are orphans living a hand to mouth existence in the slums of Bombay (now Mumbai), but it is never depressing. Yes, they do get themselves into trouble and dangerous situations, but they always manage to get out of it and never sit around with a 'woe is me' look about them. For me, Danny Boyle is the true star of this film.
The creativity behind the way the story is told is its strongest suit. What I thought could have been a little better was the emotional content. The dialogue is a little flat and unemotional. The attempt at social analysis lacks depth and even content. Somehow even the overwhelming poverty of the Bombay slums is made to look not that crushing. I wanted more anger about this unfair poverty. Because of this it falls short of being a great movie.
All this aside the number one reason to go to a movie is to be entertained and touched. This film accomplishes both those things entirely.