At the Majestic Bay: 'Slumdog Millionaire' is a unique cinematic treat
Dir. Danny Boyle
120 min., R
"Slumdog Millionaire," directed by Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting," "28 Days Later"), is your typical love story - boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy must get girl back. But, because this is Danny Boyle, it's more like boy meets girl, boy narrowly avoids intentional blinding, boy swindles fat tourists, boy gets mixed up with local gangsters, boy is tortured by police, then boy must get girl back. And, it is those detours that make "Slumdog Millionaire" an incredible film experience.
Jamal Malik, a child of an Indian slum, is a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." When he finds himself one question away from the big jackpot, to the chagrin of the game's host and the delight of the nation, he is nabbed by the police.
The police, certain that Jamal is somehow cheating, interrogate him to discover how he knew each of his answers. This interrogation serves as a device for Jamal to tell of his life experiences, in which he improbably finds the answer to every question, and to ruminate on his lost love, Latika.
It is in these flashbacks, especially to Jamal as a young boy in the slums, that the film truly comes alive. Thanks to Boyle's frenetic direction - changing hues, distorting images - and a pounding score by Indian producer A.R. Rahman, these scenes become a totally immersive experience.
At one point in the film, a young Jamal bitterly says to a tourist, "You wanted to see a little of the real India, well here it is." Boyle and company do the same to the audience.
The cast deserves its share of the credit as well. And, while all the actors play their parts admirably, it is Ayush Mahesh Khedekar as the youngest Jamal who brings heart and humanity to some of the most tragic moments in Jamal's life. How good is Khedekar? He has the distinction of being the center of the only adorable scene involving large amounts of human excrement ever committed to film.
"Slumdog Millionaire" has received 10 Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Director. And, like its underdog hero, it just might be able to pull off the big win in the end.
Also, remember to stick around for the credits. The colorful, wild dance number that closes the film is an added treat.
Michael Harthorne can be reached 783-1244, firstname.lastname@example.org.