Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek
benpeek

Slumdog Millionaire

On Saturday, I saw Slumdog Millionaire, a film that's been earning a lot of attention. Perhaps even deservingly.

If you're not familiar with the idea, the film takes place over a two day period, where its protagonist, Jamal (Dev Patel), is taken into police custody after appearing on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and working his way to the final question. Beaten within the opening moments of the film, Jamal is accused of cheating, of knowing the answers, and the film, using a technique that does, at times, feel forced, weaves backflashes in between the questions on the show and those put forth by the police, showing how he came to know them. At the same time, it also details his childhood, his relationship with his brother, Salim, and an orphan girl, Latika. It will become clear, throughout the film, that Jamal has gone on the show not to win the money, but rather to gain the attention of the latter, who is living with a crime lord. What exactly he plans to do once he has her attention is a bit unclear and, unfortunately, the details of Latika's life are also a bit sketchy. You're never quite sure how she ends up being the trophy wife of the gangster, or just how imprisoned she is there (never mind why she would actually care for a man that she hasn't seen since she was fourteen or so). You can piece together such things, but the film, to my mind, never gives her any real room to breath.

For the most part, however, the film is actually quite good. The early scenes with Jamal and Salim growing up in the slums are quite evocative, and the kids in the roll quite likeable, to the point, actually, that you could argue that the younger Jamal is somewhat more charismatic that the older ones. But still, from the early scenes in the out-house, to their time with the beggers, and the knowledge that blind singers earn twice as much, the film keeps moving along quite well, and the slight force that comes from linking these parts to the questions asked in the game show didn't truly bother me. In fact, the truth is, the more I watched the film, the more its faults ceased to bother me. For a while I was worried that I had actually finally broken down, and was willing to accept any piece of trash as it was now, but ultimately I came back to the conclusion that I was simply engaged by the film for its entire length. Even though I kind of doubted the adult relationship, I wanted the two to get together in the end, and I wanted Jamal to get the money, and to show up the show's smug, and all knowing host, aptly played by Prem Kumar. Yeah, it's truth that Salim's characterisation suffers, as does Latika's, and there's a big time jump after Jamal is first reunited with the latter, but to be honest, these are nothing new for a film made by Danny Boyle. From Sunshine to 28 Days Later to Trainspotting, ends have never been a strong point for Boyle, and it appears that it is no different when he shares co-directing credits with Loveleen Tandan.

At any rate, if you haven't seen it, it's worth the time.

(crossposted)
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