And the Oscar Goes to:
Slumdog Millionaire, 2009
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan
Slumdog Millionaire is a feel-good rags-to-riches film, loosely based on Vikas Swarup’s novel, Q&A, about 18-year-old Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) from the slums of Mumbai who enters and wins the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The film is shot through three different time periods: the first being in the present, where Jamal is being interrogated and accused of cheating to get to the penultimate question on Millionaire; the second is the show itself, showing all the questions Jamal was asked en route to his win; and the third is from the past, detailing every incident which lead to him knowing the answers to the questions (such as the president on the $100 bill from when he once gave one away after being tipped it).
The pacing of the film is constant throughout, as we follow Jamal’s childhood impoverished childhood with his brother, Salim (Madhur Mittal). Constant struggles are placed in front of them which helps create the tension towards the end when Jamal is in the hot-seat for the winning question. Along with the pacing, the camera work and music throughout is also very good. Capturing different sides of India, as well, they showed the complete contrast throughout and fully cemented his rags-to-riches storyline effectively.
The only issue with this film is slight, in that we know beforehand he’s going to win the jackpot, so the tension that rises before the final question is hampered a bit, but it’s still an emotional moment after hearing that he wins. His reaction is a little subdued as well; Patel maintains a constant emotionless expression throughout his interrogation scenes and during Millionaire which didn’t have me as invested as I would have liked. The whole country goes crazy for his win, yet he maintains a calm demeanour, which, admittedly, may be due to shock, but a more excited reaction surely would have appeared more genuine.
Overall, though, Slumdog Millionaire is a lovely film about fighting back against all obstacles put in front of you. Fighting off poverty, loss of family and loved ones and betrayals, Jamal rises to be a millionaire from the slums. A true feel-good film by the end if there ever was one.
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