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Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DANNY Boyle has hit the jackpot with Slumdog Millionaire, a genuinely crowd-pleasing rags-to-riches tale based upon Vikas Swarup’s best selling novel, Q&A.

A difficult film to make, and by no means an easy sell by virtue of its India setting and lack of stars, the film has nevertheless surpassed early expectation by becoming a firm audience favourite on the festival circuit (London included), and an unlikely Oscar contender. It has even found favour in America, where cinema-goers and critics have warmed to its feel-good values. UK audiences should flock to it in their droves.

Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai who finds himself just one question away from winning 20 million rupees on India’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire? But his achievement brings suspicion and Jamal is hauled in for brutal overnight questioning by the police, who believe he has cheated his way to the potential fortune.

As he attempts to convince them otherwise, Jamal relives the various life experiences that set him on the path to unlikely success.. and love.

The two most striking things about Boyle’s movie, however, are its vibrancy and heart. Slumdog Millionaire is brimming with energy, yet never loses sight of the humanity underpinning it. It is, first and foremost, a love story between Jamal and the girl of his dreams, Latika (played latterly by Freida Pinto), but one that works hard for its euphoric conclusion.

Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay doesn’t shy away from life’s hard knocks, which come especially hard for Jamal during his traumatic childhood in Mumbai’s slums. Nor, too, does Boyle’s direction gloss over some of the harsher elements of life in such a difficult environment.

The film is often as brutal and violent as it is beautiful and life-affirming, twisting and turning its way towards its inspired conclusion and making clever use of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? question and answer format.

It’s also packed with raw, gritty performances from a largely untrained cast (Skins’ star Patel and Irrfan Khan’s police chief excepted) – all of which bring an added authenticity and appeal to proceedings.

The younger incarnations of Jamal and Latika are brilliantly realised by the likes of Ayush Mahesh Khedekar and Rubiana Ali respectively, while Bollywood superstar Anil Kapoor is satisfyingly smarmy as the TV presenter who seemingly wants his young contestant to fail.

Slumdog Millionaire isn’t without its minor faults and feels its length in places, but in most respects it’s a winning tale of triumph over adversity and the enduring nature of the human spirit.

Boyle, meanwhile, underlines his reputation as one of Britain’s most versatile filmmakers – one whose CV can now count Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Slumdog as instant classics in their respective genres. Few could begrudge him his own rich rewards come awards time.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 1, 2009