If I were a rich man…
That Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire swept the board at this year’s Academy Awards – winning eight statues including Best Film and Best Director – can come as absolutely no surprise to anyone what has watched it. For his is a masterpiece, the perfect mix of comedy and drama, love story and thriller to make it enjoyable, thought-provoking and endlessly watchable.
Jamal (Dev Patel) is a regular Indian lad from the slums of Mombai; ordinary, that is, except for one small thing. He has made it to the last question of India’s version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and stands on the brink of winning more money that he’s ever seen in his life. There’s just one problem – the authorities don’t believe that a simple ‘slum dog’ could know so much, and are brutally adament that he is cheating. As Jamal explains just how he’s got all the answers, we see his life through vivid flashback. It’s an incredible life full of desperate, bone-crushing lows, tremendous highs and sheer blind luck and, through it all, his older brother Salim (played at various stages by Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala and Madhur Mittal) and childhood love Latika (Freida Pinto) are at the centre of his world – for better, or worse.
From his depiction of the horrors of Mumbai’s slums to the bright lights of the Millionaire studio, Jamal’s journey is absolutely enthralling thanks to Patel’s superb performance (expertly supported by Ayush Mahesh Khedekar and Tanay Hemant Chheda who play Jamal’s younger selves), the pitch-perfect direction of Boyle and his Indian co-director Loveleen Tandan. and an exceptional, energetic soundtrack that’s a mix of Bollywood and rock. Authentic, vibrant and utterly compelling, every stage of Jamal’s journey from boy to man, from pauper to millionaire, is -despite its inherent outlandishness – both believable and breath-taking. And as the camera is pointed at Jama’s development, so too the film’s focus is on the ever-changing face of India, the matamorphosis of fetid slim to prosperous city. Boyle doesn’t shy away from showing the true atrocities of the slum, nor the true human price of progress.
Its a testmanent to the sheer, unadulterated talent of all those involved, and the strength of both Vika Swarup’s original novel and Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay, that the framing of Jamal’s involvement in Millionaire never feels contrived, that incredulity never rears its head. The story sweeps you along, breaking your heart and making you grin in equal measure, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it except sit back and enjoy the ride. 5 stars
There are two excellent commentaries, one with Boyle and Patel and one with producer Christian Colson and writer Simon Beaufoy. A handful of deleted scenes leads the rest of the content, which includes a Making Of and a look at the musical number Jai Ho. The Blu-ray also contains Slumdog Discovered, an interactive option that gives access to special features directly from the film, plus an in-depth look at the infamous Toilet Scene, the short film Manjha and a look at Bombay Liquid Dance. 3 stars (DVD), 4 stars (Blu-ray)