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7 reviews, 136 user ratings

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Slumdog Millionaire
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Best Thing To Happen To A Game Show Since Gene Rayburn"
5 stars

“Slumdog Millionaire” is a film that is largely set amidst the crushing poverty of India and centers on a young man who, as his story progresses, sees his mother brutally killed before his eyes during a riot, is repeatedly betrayed by both his older brother and the girl that he loves, is beaten and tortured by the police for the crime of doing well on a game show and is even at one point locked inside of an outhouse and forced to use the business end in order to escape. To hear all of that, you might logically assume that the film is a singularly depressing work designed solely to make the few viewers it might somehow manage to attract feel as bummed out as humanly possible by the time that the end credits roll. And yet, not only is it not the kind of dreary cinematic drudgework that it may appear to be on first glance, it is one of the most completely endearing and crowd-pleasing films that I have seen this year and what is even more astonishing is that it achieves that without ignoring or sugarcoating the more melodramatic moments that I have cited above.

The film opens with nearly all of the eyes of India firmly fixed upon Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai who has somehow found his way into the hot seat on the country’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Not only is he on the show, he has had an extraordinary run in which he has correctly answered one seemingly impossible-to-answer question after another. To many people, in fact, he is doing too good and the fact that an uneducated kid from the streets is somehow managing to answer every question correctly--even after being supplied with a false answer by the show’s unctuous host during a break--is proof positive that he is somehow cheating. When the show ends for the day, with Jamal set to return the next day for a final question worth 20,000,000 rupees, our hero is not taken to a nearby hotel to rest, relax and prepare for tomorrow. Instead, he is grabbed by the police and whisked away to the nearest station where they begin beating and torturing him in order to get him to admit that he has been cheating. Not only does Jamal deny cheating, he claims that he has absolutely no interest in the enormous prize that he is poised to win the next day.

Desperate to prove his innocence to his captors, he begins to explain how it was that he came to know the answers to all of those disparate questions by relating his life story, an occasionally cruel and occasionally charming tale in which each of the chapters he recounts winds up tying in with one of the questions he was asked--the famous movie star he is asked to name, for example, is the same one that Jamal had to make that messy outhouse escape in order to meet. As his tale continues, we learn more about his life, including the older brother, Salim (Madhur Mittal), who wound up abandoning his brother for a life of crime and easy riches and the beautiful fellow orphan Latika (Freida Pinto) who stole his heart at an early age before leaving him to fall in with the wrong people himself, and how he has managed to make it so far in the game. However, while Jamal is able to eventually convince the chief police inspector (Irfan Khan) that he is coming up with the answers on his own, there are a couple of questions that he refuses to answer as the clock ticks down to the next day‘s broadcast--what is someone with no professed interest in big money or fame doing on the show in the first place and why is it so important that they return for the finale?

With its sprawling storyline that largely involves young children being forced to gingerly negotiate their ways through worlds filled with violence, corruption, heartbreak and moral conundrums in which good is not necessarily rewarded as much as evil, you might at first think that “Slumdog Millionaire” should be filed alongside the likes of “Pixote,” “City of God” or even the granddaddy of this subgenre, “Oliver Twist.” While Simon Beaufoy’s adaptation of the Vikas Swarup novel does do an effective job of conveying both the horror of growing up in such an environment (especially in the terrifying sequence when Jamal and his brother fall in with a man who has organized young beggars to work for him that seems swell at first until the guy decides that Jamal would be more effective with one of his eyes gouged out) and the surreal ways in which extreme wealth and extreme poverty can rub shoulders in a country like India (towards the end, Jamal stares ruefully at his old slum neighborhood, now the location for a number of garishly expensive skyscrapers), its ambitions are far greater than that. It also wants to tell the story of Jamal’s great love for Latika and his far more troubled relationship with his brother while simultaneously depicting the multi-media madness that Jamal’s run on the TV show inspires throughout the entire country. That is a lot for any screenwriter to bite off but Beaufoy has spun all of these elements together into a final product that is so beautifully put together that you don’t even realize quite how ambitious it is or how many plates he has spinning in the air until the film is over and you begin to think back on what you just saw. It is a great piece of screenwriting--the kind of storytelling that manages to take a finale in which the results seem more or less preordained and bring a genuine sense of suspense to the proceedings.

“Slumdog Millionaire” was directed by Danny Boyle and it offers further proof to the claim that he is one of the most adventurous filmmakers at work today--not only has he made such an extraordinarily eclectic range of films as “Trainspotting,” “A Life Less Ordinary,” “28 Days Later,” “Millions” and “Sunshine” (at least the last two-thirds of the latter) during his career, he has managed to pretty much pull them off thanks to his ability to tell a story in a clean and direct manner while still managing to infuse it with an elaborate and eye-catching visual style. Right from the start, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a riot of sound and vision as he and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle capture and contrast the goofy garishness of the TV show with a vision of the slums of Jamal’s childhood that is both desperately sad in its poverty and yet somehow thrilling in the way that they are teeming with life in virtually every corner. As the film progresses throughout Jamal’s hardscrabble life, it begins to take on the shadings of a genuine epic but at the same time, Boyle never allows the spectacle to overwhelm the human heart at the center or his story. (Much of this is due to the lovely set of actors that Boyle has chosen to play his main characters at various ages--for once, they actual feel as if they are all playing the same person.) He also does a marvelous job of juggling the numerous plot ideas and emotional tones found in Beaufoy’s screenplay--comedy flows into tragedy and vice-versa in such a fluid manner that whenever one of the two is at the forefront, the other is never too far behind so that neither of them winds up dominating the proceedings and throwing the film’s delicate balance out of whack. It is an amazing ambitious work, even for a filmmaker who has never been known for shying away from a challenge, and the result is, with the possible exception of the wondrous children’s film “Millions,” the best and most completely satisfying thing that he has ever done; even the finale, which has often been his weak spot in his earlier works, comes off perfectly this time around.

Of course, while more discerning viewers will presumably flock to it in droves, there is the possibility that the mass audiences might wind up giving “Slumdog Millionaire” a pass thanks to the less-than-catchy title, the lack of any known performers and the fact that roughly a third of the film (mostly the sequences involving the youngest incarnations of the main characters) is in Hindi with English subtitles. In response, all I can say is that the title perfectly evokes the film, the performers are so charming and charismatic that you will hardly notice that you don’t know them and that while overlooking them may cause you to miss some details, the basic story is so simple and strong that you hardly need to read the subtitles to know what is going on. From its vibrant opening frames to the exhilarating musical number that brings it to a close, “Slumdog Millionaire” is an absolute delight throughout and I cannot imagine the possibility of a viewer sitting through it without completely succumbing to its massive charms.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17382&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/12/08 10:28:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
5/17/17 Louise Grips from start to finish! Great soundtrack too. 5 stars
4/19/14 Ewan Lewis Messy... The book is a good-read the movie is terrible...All their is really to say... :/ 1 stars
12/24/11 debbie hodgdon so good i went to the theatre twice and brought a friend 5 stars
12/29/09 terror watch the unusual structure makes it a great film 5 stars
10/25/09 RLan a well done love story. Not best picture worthy, but still a good film. 4 stars
10/21/09 Emma i LOVE this movie. it is my favorite now. i don't think it's shallow or contrived crap... 5 stars
8/17/09 parrot outstanding cinema 5 stars
7/12/09 nic cage this movie is like city of god with a bollywood feel 5 stars
7/06/09 michael mann i personally think this is boyle's best film, diff from trainspotting 5 stars
7/05/09 MP Bartley Colourful but contrived, stylish but shallow; a messy success. 4 stars
7/02/09 roger federer beautiful visuals alone make this a masterpiece 5 stars
6/29/09 blackberry outstanding, outstanding and outstanding 5 stars
6/28/09 will tenner beautiful feel good cinema 5 stars
6/27/09 gandalf very good filmmaking style, cinemaography 5 stars
6/22/09 devastator like a modern update on charles dickens 5 stars
6/22/09 Simon A needed fresh setting of imagery, but trite-gimmicky plot renders themes non-transcendent 4 stars
6/17/09 jurisprudence outstanding story, great editing and cineamtography 5 stars
6/11/09 tung ton deserved oscar; feel good pic yes, great story too 5 stars
6/03/09 Pete Snot A hopelessly contrived mess, simplistic and forgettable. 1 stars
6/02/09 Anannya 1st half great although a bit much. 2nd half ridiculous. Love story protracted and shitty. 4 stars
5/25/09 Anonymous. didn't think it was '08's best picture, but still really good. 4 stars
5/08/09 Disappointed Not moving. Isn't there enough real poverty to find a real story to base this on? Sham. 2 stars
5/04/09 Mac Where is erik and the other quality reviewers? this was amazing. cornelius is the worst. 5 stars
4/28/09 dude easily one of the best movies i've seen last year 5 stars
4/13/09 skinner oustanding direction 5 stars
4/09/09 farrow no the movie is better than the book 5 stars
4/09/09 tarantino one of the best movies ever made. Very well directed 5 stars
4/01/09 conair best movie ever 5 stars
3/31/09 Gorgon Zola Isn't there a law prohibiting this much schmaltz in a movie? 2 stars
3/31/09 Gorgon Zola Maybe they should call the Razzies Oscars and the Oscars Razzies. Would make more sense. 1 stars
3/22/09 Bnorm Great movie. it affected me like every great movie should. 5 stars
3/13/09 mr.mike 4.5 stars 4 stars
3/02/09 Ruben If you want the true Slumdog Millionaire experience read the book. The movie is no match. 2 stars
3/01/09 Koitus I thought it was very well done. Very few "dry eyes" after viewing the ending scene. 5 stars
2/28/09 Elaine first half excellent, second half OK 4 stars
2/26/09 rose Fantastic Movie- worth every award that it got! 5 stars
2/24/09 Dorie One of the most exciting, endearing, satisfying movie I have seen for a long, long time. 5 stars
2/24/09 pm Long , boring , Best picture ? I just do not get it. 1 stars
2/24/09 Vince If this exact movie took place in american ghetto it would have been seen as garbage it is 2 stars
2/22/09 noops.... The name itself is bull shit.... they r not dogs .... damn u danny.... 1 stars
2/22/09 Steven We've all seen this movie before, just not with Indian actors. That itself will fool many. 2 stars
2/22/09 L.C. Liked this movie, but it was not the best of the year. 4 stars
2/20/09 RedBaron Weak plot, weak characters, bad acting (except for the kid actors) 2 stars
2/20/09 Mira Slum kids don't speak English, you fool. Contrived shit. 1 stars
2/20/09 Derkerdog Over-rated to say the least. Shallow and predictable. 1 stars
2/18/09 Obi Wan Saw this after Hype, it was good. Not great. Dark Knight was better, so was Doubt 4 stars
2/11/09 incomepoop like it, esp the last 45 minutes or so, very suspenseful, all the tv watchers 4 stars
2/09/09 Aesop Poverty: bad. Schlock: Good. Like we needed this info. 1 stars
2/08/09 sid2323 Had potential but lost steam; esp with the romance side of things. Kid actors were great! 3 stars
2/07/09 zarf critic seems to think everywher is like the US. movie wasnt demeaning at all. great movie! 5 stars
2/05/09 Alejandro Sosa Out of this word amazing, couldn't take my eyes of the screen. 5 stars
2/03/09 MP Bartley Colourful and vibrant if uneven at the end. 4 stars
2/03/09 dude forgettable, contrived, exploitative, undeserving of grammatically correct comment 2 stars
2/02/09 Piz Love all the negative reviews-it shows how idiotic people are. This movie is outstanding! 5 stars
2/02/09 jcjs33 easily best picture of the year other than 'Rachel Getting Married' , a wowser 5 stars
1/29/09 Alec Walked out after 10 minutes. Not for me . . . 2 stars
1/28/09 Ray Agree with reviewer. This film is overhyped and shallow filled with lazy caricatures/ 3 stars
1/26/09 Luisa Absolutely compelling. Child actors are amazing. Great flick! 5 stars
1/26/09 phillip usually agree with this reviewer. not this time. 5 stars
1/25/09 Marion Pitiful passivity of the slumdog heroine devoid of credibility. Totally ruined it for me. 2 stars
1/25/09 Peta The 1st half of this movie was fantasic; the 2nd half was contrived crap of the worst kind! 1 stars
1/24/09 Pete Painful 1 stars
1/24/09 Anita Hugely entertaining along with outstanding social commentary. Bravo! 5 stars
1/23/09 Iyps I would say it is worth the buck... Energy of the film is great, except few disgusting sce 4 stars
1/23/09 jcjs33 Best Picture along with 'Rachel...'clever, fast, colorful, wow music, real, wonderful 5 stars
1/23/09 Joanne I HATED this movie!! HATED HATED HATED. 1 stars
1/23/09 s. Liked the movie but liked Kite Runner better. Entertaining copy-cat movie. 5 stars
1/22/09 Patrick I enjoyed the movie but it had many flaws. The central love story was implausible. 4 stars
1/22/09 Arif Zaidi Lightening fast pace movie, sparkling colors, terrific camera, superb script. Blockbuster. 5 stars
1/22/09 Randy It's different and I love it for that. Hyped or not it was great! 5 stars
1/21/09 Jason I AGREE THIS FILM SUCKS 2 stars
1/19/09 anusree wonderful............. 5 stars
1/19/09 Judy Had to depart after 10 minutes, too violent 2 stars
1/18/09 g. another great film from danny boyle 5 stars
1/17/09 DJ This Idiot Critic Just Wants Attention 5 stars
1/17/09 zac yea terrible film, let's see, best film Golden Globes,Critic Choice Awards,ETC! 5 stars
1/16/09 Smitty A wonderful love story. Manipulative - yeh - like a Dickens novel and I love to read them. 5 stars
1/16/09 Nick Great movie, loved it, get over your ridiculous pretentions... 5 stars
1/15/09 John Not one character worth caring about. Lucks out and can now buy the unfaithful prostitute. 1 stars
1/15/09 Siva BEST of 2009 5 stars
1/14/09 Jeff Best movie of the year. Original, funny, touching, epic. Should win the Oscar. 5 stars
1/14/09 Ajay K Absurd story-line, phoney love interest 1 stars
1/13/09 Abisha 4 gloden globes, have they gone mad? 1 stars
1/13/09 Louise Involving, colourful, great soundtrack and wonderfully Indian! 5 stars
1/12/09 Rose Very clever how personal experiences resulted in correct answers on TV show. 5 stars
1/09/09 R.W. Welch Jolting look at slum-level life in India. Cleverly plotted. B+ 4 stars
1/09/09 noops.... What westerners want to see abt (poor)India is shown..but A R Rehman's music is awesome... 3 stars
1/09/09 NAC All my friends and family loved it but I did not. The impact of violence was traivialized 3 stars
1/09/09 Stan An okay movie in an era when Hollywood puts out very bad movies. Overhyped? Yes! 3 stars
1/08/09 Rahul S Thanks for a great review. The movie is crap and there are technical flaws aplenty 1 stars
1/08/09 Porter After 1/2 hour of this uber-child abuse film, I up and left! 1 stars
1/07/09 Dana sometimes, suspension of disbelief is needed to appreciate great fiction. lighten up. 5 stars
1/04/09 Lisa Well made, total Hollywood (Bollywood?) cliche. 3 stars
1/04/09 Irv It was manipulative , contrived & quite frankly not well done. 1 stars
1/04/09 Flounder The best picture of the year. It's funny, dramatic, heartbreaking and touching all at once 5 stars
1/04/09 nick clarke Why does a film like this need gentle subtlety? It us a realistic look at India! 5 stars
1/03/09 Waltizzle!!! Completely overrated! Only good after the guy wrote B on the mirror!!! 1 stars
1/01/09 Slamb Thanks for this sensible review. Can't believe so many critics loved it. 2 stars
12/30/08 Robert S Right on. I found it incredibly violent, noisy, nasty, clichéd and overdone. 2 stars
12/30/08 Ashish Biswas As a human and as an Indian, I have loved this film. The critic has balls for brains! 5 stars
12/30/08 Macroniche I agree with a lot of your review, however I lived this film just the same 4 stars
12/29/08 Alex One of the better stories I've ever seen told on film...this critic is clearly a moron. 5 stars
12/28/08 B This review is garbage and doesnt make any sense. Movie is amazing!! 5 stars
12/28/08 Patrick I enjoyed this movie very much. Don't fully agree with this critic. 5 stars
12/27/08 marilyn kruse I read so many rave reviews from the critics, but I was unable to get involved in this. 2 stars
12/27/08 Sonie Best Movie I've seen in years, incredibly uplifting 5 stars
12/27/08 Niki Uh what movie did this guy watch?! this movie was amazing. Rich and so real. Worth ur money 5 stars
12/27/08 Melanie M. Best movie I have seen all year. This critic merely looks for things to be insulting about. 5 stars
12/27/08 fred best film of the year 5 stars
12/26/08 Philip Buckley-Mellor One of the best, and oddly realistic, films I've seen 5 stars
12/26/08 AJ Movie was brilliant! Those who dont buy wats shown, visit india, people like Fagin do exist 5 stars
12/26/08 Grace I loved it and thought it was one of the better movies I've seen in a while. 5 stars
12/25/08 Monica I suppose, technically, the reviewer is right. But see it anyways. 4 stars
12/25/08 Mrs. Mom Powerful, interesting, exciting, what more do you want from a film? 5 stars
12/24/08 ROBO I'm a cynic, but I thought this was one terrific movie, best I've seen this year! 5 stars
12/23/08 June totally agree with reviewer...made me anxious and depressed. too mch violence. 3 stars
12/21/08 Houston Ignore the review, go see this movie. It is incredibly interesting and entertaining. 5 stars
12/21/08 Suresh The critic's views are easier to agree if you've seen movies like Salaam Bombay. 3 stars
12/21/08 Karan Puri Another Black & White, stereotypical prtrayal of life in India. Tragic that people buy it. 2 stars
12/20/08 Lawrence This critic takes himself way too seriously. 5 stars
12/19/08 John Back Totally agree-an Indian fairy tale w/violent plot. 2 stars
12/12/08 Mike Gimmicky garbage, I didn't buy any of it. 2 stars
12/10/08 Suzz Very good film with an interesting narrative style. 4 stars
12/10/08 nl The film is good, I enjoyed it. Worth paying for. But, completely agree with the review. 4 stars
12/09/08 Bob Excellent movie, totally worth seeing. Although might be a bit overpraised . . . 4 stars
12/09/08 Jenny Latica was NOT about to lose her virginity, she was having dance lessons!!?? 3 stars
12/07/08 Kacie Exactly right. Flashiness can't hide a sentimental, uninspired love story. 3 stars
12/06/08 dyli Just saw the movie. His review makes complete sense. 4 stars
12/06/08 mpdesign Don't listen to this man or you will miss a great movie 5 stars
12/05/08 Robert Anyone who reads this review should simply disregard it and go see the movie. 5 stars
12/05/08 Igor This guy was watching a different movie. Perfect example of disagreeing for the sake of it. 5 stars
12/04/08 Faye wrong...GREAT MOVIE...gee, don't know what movie could get a 5 star from this person 5 stars
11/13/08 gaurav mittal good 5 stars
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  12-Nov-2008 (R)
  DVD: 31-Mar-2009


  DVD: 31-Mar-2009

Directed by
  Danny Boyle

Written by
  Simon Beaufoy

  Dev Patel
  Anil Kapoor
  Irfan Khan
  Freida Pinto

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