Saturday, November 22, 2008

Film Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Film Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Director: Danny Boyle; Co- Director; India, Loveleen Tandan

by Eric Green

Using the money and financial craze taking place in India, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy wrote Slumdog Millionaire based on the novel "Q and A" by Vikas Swarup.

English filmmaker, Danny Boyle, known for his 1996 film Trainspotting, took that screenplay and made an amazingly poignant, exciting and rather tough film. You could also classify this as a political/economic film.

Boyle used his common sense and enlisted the brilliance of Loveleen Tandan to be his co-director, as its said on the credits, co-director, India.

Filmgoers may not know her name, as I didn't, but she was the casting director for the hit film, Monsoon Wedding; and the India casting director for Vanity Fair 2004 and Brick Lane 2008.

The film won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is in line for a far larger number of awards, surely a top candidate for this year's Oscars.

What the book, screenplay and the direction of Boyle does is take the viewer through a series of relatively easy to follow family epoch events in which three Indian children grow up to become teenagers; and through them you see the accelerated development of the Indian economy. Clearly Boyle has a strong criticism of the Indian development model. And, that criticism is expressed through the lives of Jamal, Latika and Salim.

The brutality of Indian culture and its economic and judicial system is sometimes very hard to witness; and, Boyle puts you in a position of witnessing these events, almost as if it were a documentary.

There are three stages to these three kids lives and different actors perform terrifically at each stage. It is hard to choose which stage of kids are the better.

The bad guys in the saga are especially bad and performed to the hilt. Ruthlessness toward the use of kids in the "begging trade;" and brutality in the use of woman as sex objects is portrayed in every part of life.

The use of the "So You Want to be a Millionaire" "prop" was brilliantly done. In fact Boyle expertly pulled off the intertwining of the game show with real life. He had many balls in the air, but alas, each and every ball had a place to fall. Sometimes the place to fall wasn't a pretty one or one, which the filmgoer would like, but fall they, did; and, they made sense.

Loveleen Tandan the casting director picket a perfect set of actors for this drama. The mix of veterans and new actors, I guess, was on purpose for it really kept the film moving at Boyle's great neck speed. The speed of Trainspotters was met here.

The lead actor, turns out is not from India, but is a British national. His name is Dev Patel, and is just 18 years old. He played the lead character of Jamal Malik.

A veteran Indian actor, Irfan Khan, played the police Inspector. You will remember him from his stellar performance in the Namesake. Devotees of Indian films will know him for sure since his list of credits is many yards long.

Latika, Jamal's friend and love interest is played by Indian born Frieda Pinto. She in real life is 24 years old.

Madhur Mittel plays the final part of the three musketeers, Salim.

Both Pinto and Mittel are new screen actors and both are well directed which comes through in their excellent acting.

A special mention is needed for the film's score. Composer A. R. Rahman planned the score over two months and completed it in two weeks. He has stated he was aiming for "mixing modern India and the old India." He more than accomplished this goal.

Like so many films from creative directors like Boyle, the film credits at the end and a treat themselves. He shows each characters thre levels of development and the actors associated with each level.

Be sure to NOT jump and leave at the end of the film's story.