Wow. If ever there was a film that didn’t deserve to be released the week before Christmas, it’s Slumdog Millionaire. At the risk of resorting to hyperbole, this film is a must-see.
Dev Patel is Jamal Malik, a young man about to make it big on the show that can make dreams come true – ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ He has already answered all but the final question, earning him 10 million Rupees and the night in a gaol cell being interrogated as to how he has cheated. Telling his story to the police inspector, Jamal touches on the various events in his life that have enabled him to honestly know the answers to each and every question host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) has asked.
Slumdog Millionaire is an utterly magical film, transporting the audience to a place of abject poverty and human degradation, and yet somehow becoming a life-affirming and profoundly moving love story. Although it could possibly be criticised for being overly romantic, it could only be a hard heart that isn’t in some way affected by Jamal’s story.
Patel is excellent in the lead role of the slightly bemused hero who can’t quite believe he knows the answers but somehow does. He is supported by a rather astonishing performance by Ayush Mahesh Khedekar as the youngest Jamal (pictured), on whom lies so much responsibility for the film’s success. Khedekar is engaging and inspiring, although it must be said that his role goes a long way to creating his appeal. Nonetheless, his wonderful performance allows the audience to get right behind Jamal as he ages. Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail plays the youngest Salim with similar skill, while each actor responsible for either character at various ages confidently progresses the character to the present.
Supporting performances are adequate, with Kapoor suitably smarmy as the television host while Irrfan Khan is a passable police inspector. The actors responsible for Latika at each age all excel, and the imagery used to demonstrate Jamal’s recollections of Latika is striking, such that her character is a constant presence throughout the film in spite of her relatively brief screen time.
Directors Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan deftly manage multiple timelines and create a cohesive narrative that is easy to follow and gripping in intensity. Not for a minute does the mind wander – Slumdog Millionaire is just so absorbing. The soundtrack aids the visuals with a sense of unity that is rarely achieved, and the use of intermittent handheld camerawork never distracts as it so often can.
It is hard to describe a film experience so sublime without resorting to cliché or ridiculous runs of superlatives. Slumdog Millionaire, however, is close to the perfect cinema experience and is accessible enough to be appreciated by most audiences – little wonder it has already won Audience awards at the Austin, Chicago and Toronto International Film Festivals, along with multiple acting and directing awards from a variety of film organisations. It is hard to recall a character for whom an audience has wished success more than Jamal Malik.
A profoundly moving and joyous experience, Slumdog Millionaire is the best film of 2008.Rating: