Slumdog Millionaire, the Best Picture winner from this year’s Academy Awards, came to me with exceedingly heavy praise and I was afraid my expectations might be a bit too high when I finally got a chance to watch the movie. I also knew the film revolved around a man’s attempts to reunite with the love of his life, and my aversion to sappy romance made me wonder if the strength of the film would be lost on me. Well, my expectations were not a problem and I loved the way the film mixed the romance with a truly striking dramatic storyline. I also was surprised by how good the movie ultimately makes you feel despite the depravity present in the darker elements of the film. I think the movie has a larger appeal than I had originally imagined, so I recommend anyone who had reservations about the film to give it a chance. It didn’t rock the Oscars (eight wins!) for nothing.
Danny Boyle is primarily known as a director of unconventional films like Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, and The Beach. Here he tones it down, but still brings his wild kinetic energy to a love story told through flashbacks during the tensest episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire (or Kaun Banega Crorepati). Jamal, the protagonist, is having an unprecedented run on the show which is unusual given his upbringing and he is accused of cheating. After some torture sessions we are given the background to Jamal’s life to this point showing us how he grew up and met his love, but also the circumstances of how he knew the answers to the questions he received so far. The plot device was so clever and effective it almost seems to be cheating. The acting is strong especially given the difficulty of having three different actors who are all young play the characters through the years. The “present day” Jamal was played by Dev Patel, who was excellent as was the quasi-villainous game show host played by Anil Kapoor, who is apparently the Bollywood version of Will Smith. The supporting roles were well cast, but Freida Pinto (who is rumored to be the next Bond girl) gets all the glory for her impact in just a few critical scenes.
The DVD features include two commentaries, the best being from Danny Boyle and Dev Patel. The other features are typical including a basic “making of” and some deleted scenes. The odd feature is the “Slumdog Cutdown” which is the movie compressed into a minute or two. I haven’t figured out what value it has.
As a DVD judge I deem the film worthy of repeated viewings and therefore worthy of the asking price. My only criticism is that a deluxe edition that included the soundtrack would have been a nice option.
The screener copy I was sent had some scaling issues which I imagine won’t exist in the final product, otherwise the sound and visuals are solid. It is a drama primarily so don’t expect your mind to be blown, although the dance sequence during the credits is beautifully shot.
Slumdog Dreams – Danny Boyle and the Making of Slumdog Millionaire
Commentary by Director Danny Boyle and Actor Dev Patel
Commentary by Writer Simon Beaufoy and Producer Christian Colson