Screenwriters: Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Dev Patel, Madhur Mittal, Freida Pinto (interview)
Running Time: 120 mins
The superb Slumdog Millionaire works on so many levels. It's an epic love story, cat and mouse thriller, social meditation and quiz show all harnessed into one emotionally and visually powerful treat by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle and The Full Monty writer Simon Beaufoy.
The main crux of the story focuses on plucky young chap Jamal's ascent into the hotseat on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? - and the brutal police interrogation he receives for being a general knowledge guru despite his poverty-stricken upbringing. Running parallel to this is a haunting tale of Jamal's friendship with brother Salim and their friend Latika - all of whom are orphaned in horrific circumstances. Through flashbacks, we discover their heartbreaking and occasionally uplifting adventure and turbulent rites of passage that throw them together and apart on several occasions. But can Jamal scoop the money, the girl and cling on to what he has left of his family?
Intricately structured, Beaufoy's screenplay (adapted from Vikas Swarup's novel) grips us from the beginning, flitting between the unique present day situation Jamal finds himself in, and the gruelling childhood journey that made him pursue his destiny against the odds. A clever narrative device ensures that the jumps in time are compellingly interwoven, for Jamal reveals key parts of his past while showing how he came to know certain facts allowing him to answer the quiz questions thrown at him.
Danny Boyle's energetic and multi-faceted direction suits the subject matter perfectly. It brings out the nailbiting tension in the static, mechanical surroundings of a television studio as well as in a chase sequence set in the vibrant slums of Mumbai. A dark and gritty atmosphere descends when the film explores the dark recesses of crime and child exploitation, yet moments of visual humour - such as infant Jamal's plunge into a toilet dirtier than the one in Trainspotting - create an excellent balance.
While Boyle and Beaufoy have notched up several cinematic hits in their career, those in front of the camera are vastly inexperienced in comparison. Yet they all acquit themselves tremendously, with Dev Patel from Skins making us really root for the adult Jamal's mission and building on the fine work of two younger actors who portray the character in his earlier days. Madhur Mittal and Freida Pinto also deliver engrossing performances as Salim and Latika, while Anil Kapoor gives the film a darkly humorous edge with his turn as the slimy Chris Tarrant equivalent on the Indian version of Millionaire.
This film, engrossing from start to finish, deserves to be seen by the masses. Another mainstream hit is certainly deserved by Danny Boyle, whose last endeavour Sunshine was criminally ignored by the public. There's currently plenty of Oscar buzz and it's richly deserved, as Slumdog Millionaire ranks alongside The Wrestler as the two latest masterpieces of the 21st Century.
> What do you think of the movie? Share your views