Apr 7, 2009

[Movies] Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)India is a pretty interesting country, and it's not just because of the amount of business process outsourcing work that get's managed there. It's better known for its movies and of course the cultural phenomenon known as Bollywood. Thus we often relegate all films about India into this category of films by mistake and there's always that need to expand one's horizons.

So what do you do when an avant-garde director like Danny Boyle decided to shoot a movie set in India - do you call it another Bollywood film or something else entirely? Whatever you want to call it, you can't really argue with the results. He's certainly come a long way from Trainspotting, which is a darned good film as well, mind you.

Slumdog Millionaire is an interesting film that follows the life of one boy from the slums named Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) who managed to overcome adversity and somehow get to the brink of winning the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. That may seem like an overly simplistic synopsis of things, but of course it's a lot more than that. You don't need a complicated story to deliver a message.

What will strike a lot of people the most is how they opted to position this film - structurally it's series of flashbacks where the movie pretty much starts right before the end of things. It's certainly not a new approach, but one that was used quite effectively here. As viewers, we are slowly introduced to Jamal's life as he explains how he knew the answers to all of the game show questions thus far since they all somehow connect to key events in his life, whether good or bad. It's certainly an interesting or at the very least a rather effective plot device and it helps keep the movie moving forward without getting too bogged down in its own narrative.

And as for that story in itself, it's just brilliant. This was certainly a tale that was adapted to film well and the director certainly had the skill to weave the kind of tale that is hard to forget given how deep it affects us. This movie reminds us about the hardships we all face and the need to be cognizant of them. It's a movie about true love and understanding the call of destiny. It's about the bonds of love between family and how easily they can be broken in strife.

In many ways, the simplicity of the narrative may distract the viewer in thinking the movie is pretty stupid. At times it even feels like a cheesy Filipino movie, where you can tell the entire plot based on the title of the film and the names of the actors who are involved since we give in to typecasting so man times. It's quite a disappointment I have in the local cinema scene - one among far too many, I'm afraid.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22:  (L-R) Actor...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The movie is certainly carried by the strength of its actors, and a lot of credit has to go to the kids who really managed the bulk of the film. It's hard for kids to get characters exactly right, especially in a film like this, but somehow they all managed it well. This is not to say the older folks didn't do their part - it was a good experience all around in the acting department.

The real brilliance in this movie really is the craftsmanship of its director. To weave in and out of the past and back into the present, while maintaining a clear sense of continuity and not losing the audience is a significant feat indeed. Throw in his brilliant uses of images, his skilled incorporation of appropriate scores and songs and all this married into a solid, cohesive unit.

It's no wonder it was nominated for so many Academy Awards and it managed to bag a number of the top honors like Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and five others. Oscars aside, this is still a great and heart-warming tale that everyone should take the time to see. Don't expect any true social commentary on the Hollywood situation, this is a movie with that setting and while it may show you some of the hardships, that's not the real point.

At the heart of this tale is a powerful story of people gambling on fate or destiny. The movie likes to make use of the line, "It is written" - in other words, it is predetermined. Call it whatever you want, but that's how life is at times. Sure, they do their best to live our their lives on their own, utilizing free will as much as they can, but in the end they end up precisely where fate wants them to be. They weren't forced they - they chose to go there and ended up where they needed to be. It takes a lot of will to gamble with things like that but it all works out somehow.

I really enjoyed this movie. It's simple, yet powerful. It's eloquent without being verbose. It's meaningful without being pretentious. It's all this and so much more. It's definitely worth the time to see, whether or not you buy into the Academy Awards as a basis for seeing movies.

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1 comment:

  1. hhm i haven't gotten around to watching it yet. Maybe next weekend ;)