Sunday, April 5, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire Film Review

U.K. Theatrical Release Poster

I have posted in the past to discuss Slumdog Millionaire's 8 oscar wins and the fact that it has been a critically acclaimed movie, but now for the first time, I am posting an actual review of the film. Available on DVD as of March 31st, Slumdog Millionaire is a great film to watch if you haven't caught it yet. I recently rented it from the Red Box ( and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

DVD Cover

The film's main characters are Salim, Jamal, and Latika. They know each other since childhood when they become orphans in the Mumbai slums, through a rampage (religious uprising) that kills many adults including all of their respective parents. Salim and Jamal are brothers. On the night that they become orphaned, they find shelter in the rain. Jamal looks out from under the cover and sees Latika standing there, drenched. Jamal considered his brother Salim and himself to be the two musketeers. He begs Salim to allow Latika to join them under the shelter. "She can be our third musketeer", he says. Salim is opposed to it, but Latika stills joins them and quietly thanks Jamal as they all try to get some sleep. Shortly after, as they continue to live in qualor, some men come and offer them soda pop. The men remark on what a hot day it is and lure the children away from where they are and into a van.

They are taken on a ride to a camp of sorts where there are many other children like themselves and they are offered a meal. The kids say to themselves, these men must be saints, especially if they offer us second helpings of food. It is not long before the kids learn that these men are not saints. They are inherently evil. They are training all these children to become beggars on the street and will collect the spoils. They tell the children to sing for their earnings. But it does not stop there. They believe that handicapped, maimed and weak children will get more pity and receive more money when they beg, so they literally go about torturing children by blinding them to achieve this. That is when Salim, who witnesses another child being blinded, realizes that he need to get his brother, Jamal and Latika out of this situation. The three of them run away and it is one of many intense scenes in the film. Will they be caught? The children running to hop a train and get away from these terrible men is very suspenseful indeed.


Of the three, Latika gets left behind, unable to hop on the train and caught by the men in pursuit. Jamal is bitterly remorseful and wants to go back to rescue Latika. Salim says that if they do, they are as good as dead. Jamal never forget Latika. Even though he was a young child at the time, he loved her since then.

Jamal and Salim continue on many life adventures, some of them quite comical in their struggle to survive. For example, the train stops at the Taj Mahal, which they have never seen before. They disembark and find themselves remaining in the Taj Mahal area for quite sometime, even posing as tour guides to earn some money.

When the opportunity arises years later, Jamal wants to go back to find Latika and goes around asking questions that will lead to her. Once again, Salim does not think it is wise, but goes along with his brother.

They once again encounter the gangsters they had escaped from as children. This time they are able to rescue Latika who is held by the gangsters, but at a price. Salim shoots the head of the gangsters and is forever changed. From that point on, he thinks that violence gives him power and he even lures it over the heads of Jamal and Latika. This makes the reunion of the three a dismal one. Jamal and Latika become Salim's victims. It is now Salim who takes Latika away from Jamal and again more years are to go by where Jamal is unable to see Latika. There are in fact 3 actors who play each of the respective roles. (9 actors in all- each of the 3 characters as a child, a teenager and an adult.)

When they are grown, Jamal learns that Salim has been working for yet another gangster who lauded him for shooting his enemy by saying, "An enemy of my enemy is a friend." This gangster now has Latika as a mistress. Jamal does not give up. He sees the circumstance as beyond Latika's control and does not blame her. He still loves her.

Jamal poses as a cook/dishwasher to enter the home of the gangster so that he could speak with Latika. She tries to convince him that it is too late for them. He also prepares a terrible sandwich that get him kicked out of the house. What kind of cook is he? Before he goes, he notices that Latika is watching "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and loves the show.

In the lifelong pursuit to connect with Latika, Jamal goes on the show as a contestant hoping that Latika will be watching. Interestingly enough, the series of flashbacks surrounding the movie are where Jamal finds his answers to each question. Some simple and some momentous childhood memories are where each answer on the game show can be found. This is how he, an uneducated boy from poor circumstances is able to do so well on the game show, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". Because he is so successful, he is doubted and accused of fraud. The very first scene of the film shows his being apprehended, questions and even tortured by the authorities. The sequence of his memories make up the story that he tells them to prove his innocence. When he is finally released and allowed to return to the game show, he has just one question left to answer for the big win!....Will he win? Will Latika learn of his fame, find him and reunite with him? What will become of Salim who learns his wrongs and is seeking forgiveness and redemption?

This is an adventurous and suspenseful film. At the root, it is both sad and triumphant. It is also highly entertaining. More than anything else, it is a love story and makes us think about true love conquering all and overcoming any adversity. After all the dark moments, the final scene upon which the credits roll is even a joyful dance performed by all the cast, seemingly inappropriate but then again not so much so. At the end of the day, it really is a "feel good movie".

I Rate it 5/5 ***** stars
Rated R
Running Time: 120 minutes
From Fox Searchlight Pictures in association with Warner Bros. Pictures (USA)
Directed by: Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan
Written by: Simon Beaufoy
Produced by: Christian Colson
Starring: Dev Patel (as older Jamal), Tanay Chheda (as teenage Jamal), Ayush Mahesh Khedekar (as young Jamal), Frieda Pinto (as older Latika), Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar (as teenage Latika), Rubina Ali (as young Latika), Madhur Mittal (as older Salim), Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala (as teenage Salim), Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail (as young Salim), Anil Kapoor (as Who Wants to be a Millionaire game show host, Prem Kumar), Irrfan Khan as the Police Inspector, and others
Music by: A.R. Rahman