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Review: Slumdog Millionaire

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What is hope?  Why is it important?  Can it ever be taken away?  Judging from Danny Boyle’s new movie, ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ the answer to these questions are, simply, let me tell you a story.

Set in the slums of Mumbai, ‘Slumdog,’ follows the story of Jamal, a kid growing up and doing everything he can to get by.  The movie opens with Jamal, as an adult, in a police station, being tortured.  They think he cheated in his appearance on ‘Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.’  How could a kid from the ghetto perform so well?  Jamal takes them back through his life story, one question at a time.

Starring largely unknown Indian actors, the performances they give are all, across the board, top notch.  Most impressing are the young Jamal and Salim, his brother and partner in crime.  Ever since he laid eyes on her as a young girl living in the same slums, Jamal has been in love with Latika.  His always thinking about her and, as his grows up and older, this love never dies.

Director Boyle turns in another amazing film.  If his 2004 film ‘Millions’ proved he could direct children incredibly well, ‘Slumdog’ only goes to show that he’s improved.  His treatment of the subject and the location is always on the ground and never comes off as requiring sympathy from the audience.  He is able to evoke it easily, but it never seems contrived or like it is required.  The fact that there is walking off into the sunset at one point in the movie and the audience never feels manipulated or talked down to is impressive in it’s own right.  (Be sure to stick around for the credits for a wonderful tribute to Bollywood films.)

The camera work is also stunning, hand held for much of the film, (don’t sit too close to the screen,) it always seems to find the perfect frame.  Boyle doesn’t show off, but instead lets the material speak for itself.  He is sometimes compared to Stanley Kubrick, due to his ability to jump from genre to genre with every film.  (To this point he’s already tackled a touching family story, a horror about mutant zombie-like creatures, science fiction and, of course, Scottish heroin addicts.)  What’s most interesting is the way he can loose himself in the project.  There’s nothing that screams ‘this is a Danny Boyle movie,’ which, in many ways, is the most impressive part about this movie.

‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ is easily one of the best movie of the year.  And I think it’s one that people will continue to turn to in future years because, really, who doesn’t need a little hope?  -Sam

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