Slumdog Millionaire review by Rosie

Slumdog Millionaire

I dont like to brag, but I think its fair to say that over the past few years Ive become something of a global cultural trendsetter for a new generation of cool. Sort of a pied piper of pop culture to everyone whos anyone in the coveted 18-34 year old demographic, and perhaps even a healthy slice of the precociously hip middle school scene. But with that type of power comes a tremendous responsibility to be sure that Im constantly keeping up with the cutting edge of music, fashion and entertainment and keeping my eyes open for whatever might be the next big thing. Sometimes that might mean days or even weeks on end spent sifting tirelessly through the latest CDs at a local record store, or videocassettes at a nearby Blockbuster, searching fruitlessly for anything at all that might pop out of the pack and tickle my sixth sense with that special it. But that just makes it all the more satisfying when I finally spot one like the obscure, little gem I uncovered for the world this week.

So there I was scrolling through the local movie listings on my America Online (AOL, as I call it) last weekend when I came across this curious little listing for something called Slumdog Millionaire. Doesnt even make sense, right? I know. In fact, youre probably saying to yourself right now, Whodog Whationaire? Sounds like some kind of monkeybrain crazy talk to me. Believe me, thats what I was thinking, too. But then I said to myself, Hold on there, Self. I seem to recall you thinking the same thing about another little-known foreign film just a few months ago. And where would we all be today if you decided to let a kooky sounding title stop you from taking a chance on renting a little diamond in the rough called Crocodile Dundee? Wed be in Russia. Thats where. So I scooped up my portable phone and headed out in the new Hummer H1 to catch a matinee. And let me tell you kids: glad I did.

Set in modern day India, Slumdog Millionaire tells the unlikely story of the life to date of eighteen year old Jamal Malik (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar / Tanay Chheda / Dev Patel). After being orphaned as a young child when his mother is murdered by a Hindu mob during the Bombay Riots, Jamal and his older brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail /Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala / Madhur Mittal) narrowly escape the violence and are left on their own to survive among the street children in the slums of Dharavi. Throughout their first few years on the street together, the two boys learn how to hustle, beg and fight; fall in with and escape from the grips of ruthless crime lord; and meet up with fellow riot orphan and immediate love of Jamals life, Latika (Rubiana Ali / Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar / Freida Pinto). But as the street life begins to close in on them, the two boys are forced to break out and spend the next several years of their late childhood and early adolescence on the run, jumping trains, hustling passengers and grifting tourists to keep themselves on the move from day to day, until eventually Jamal decides that enough time has passed to be safe and he needs to go back to find Latika. Against Salims wishes, they return only to find that enough time has not passed at all and that the only way to get to Latika is to finally face up to the crime lord and gang that theyd been running from since they left. In the aftermath, the relationships between Jamal, Salim and Latika are torn apart in every direction by the consequences of decisions each had been forced to make trying to protect each other. The final act of the film follows Jamal as he struggles to reconcile with Salim and ultimately reunite with Latika at any cost.

I know I went a little reverse-reverse-pyramid on you there with that synopsis, going from specific to vague to vaguer, but I didnt want to give away too many specifics from the meat of a storyline filled with interesting twists and fascinating details at every turn. Perhaps the most surprisingly likeable plot tool in Slumdogs bag of tricks is how most of Jamals life story is revealed in flashbacks as he tries to answer conveniently-aligned-with-his-experiences (in order, from when he was youngest to most recently, mind you) trivia questions on the Indian version of the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I say that this almost-too-easy plot device is surprisingly likeable because no matter how you try, there is no possible way to explain this idea to someone who hasnt seen the movie without it sounding unbelievably stupid. Try it cant be done. And yet somehow, director Danny Boyle (and possibly/possibly not co-director Loveleen Tandan) actually made what could have easily come off as a cheap shortcut work brilliantly as a compelling way to jump around freely from chapter to chapter in Jamals life without needing to bridge all the gaps in time along the way. Even more impressive was that Boyle was able to do this without sacrificing depth in his characters or their ability to connect with the audience.

Of those characters, the story centers largely on the experiences of Dev Patels character Jamal who, along with Freida Pinto, have become the marquee faces of this film. Id encourage anyone looking to really find the complexity of this film however to pay just as much attention to the maturation of easily-villainized Salim, perhaps the most tragically compelling character of all. Salims unspoken resolution at an early age to take every hit, every bullet, make every tough decision and sacrifice every dream of his own future to protect his younger brothers innocence remains so steadfast that it is often lost even on Jamal, and forgotten in those rare but horrifically cruel moments when the weight of this unappreciated burden becomes too much for even him to bear and Salim snaps in a fit of youthful, selfish indulgence. Theres no doubt that Salim commits his share of unspeakable acts of cruelty, even against those closest to him, but his overall story is far more Shakesprearean than Machiavellian. (What up, Ben Lyons? Wikipedia that sh*t, motherf#%*er.)

Along with the characters and storyline, the technical production of this movie was equally brilliant, setting the story against a seamless tapestry of vivid and unique imagery from a landscape most of us might never otherwise see. Relying on story and cinematography over star power and special effects Slumdog Millionaire is the kind of movie that reminds you with a bucket-of-ice-water-to-the-face kind of realization of how long its been since youve seen anything truly original in a wide release movie. And again, I know most of you have probably never even heard of this little hidden gem before, but Im telling you this movie is going to be huge. Trust me, once this review gets out, Slumdog Millionaire is going to be more popular with curve-leading college kids and jet setting twenty-somethings than MySpace.com and the Dave Matthews Band put together, so get in on it now. And dont forget, you heard it here first!




10 out of 10 Jackasses
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