|A call centre worker is poised to break the bank on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? While India watches on, the police want to know how he did it.||score
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Dev Patal, Freida Pinto, Irfan Khan, Madhur Mittal
UK / USA
Rating / Running Time
M / 120 minutes
(c) moviereview 2006-2008
ABN 72 775 390 361
|Danny Boyle’s crowd-pleasing Slumdog Millionaire
picked up the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto
Film Festival. Always an interesting director, his skill with child
actors is the backbone on which this unusual story stands. For as
gripping as the narrative is, it is two young boys that hold the camera.
Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) adapts Vikas Swarup’s novel about Jamal (Skins’ Dev Patel), a call-centre worker who beats the bank on India’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Naturally he’s arrested for fraud and while locked in detention reveals his whole sorry story: growing up in Bombay’s slums, coercion into a gang of beggars, his brother’s elevation by Mumbai’s mobsters and, somewhat inevitably, star-crossed love. Yet the question remains – did Jamal cheat?
Slumdog Millionaire is mostly a single idea, albeit a nifty one: exploit Millionaire’s natural tension to boost the story of a young man’s aching heart. Boyle’s production is as eye-catching as ever – all quick cuts and textured shots immersed in the compressed, radiant streets of India. Flashbacks let him explore different tones; comedy, tragedy, gangster violence, even corporate drama. It’s like Shekhar Kapur directing Monsoon Wedding on a Bollywood set, without the songs.
Brutality is a defining theme yet Boyle doesn’t stop long enough to take advantage of questions the film almost raises – loss, fate or the Dickensian reality of modern India for instance. He’s too busy with tricky camera angles to explore much more than top lines and doesn’t give himself quite enough to get the story across the finishing line without looping. Rather like Millionaire itself, he starts trying to create tension where it doesn’t actually exist. None the less, for most of its run Slumdog Millionaire is an energetic, absorbing film that rises well above the pack.
// COLIN FRASER