Slumdog Millionaire Review: Every Dog Will Have Its Day
After years of zombie plagues, smack-head toilet-diving and big-budget sci-fi horrors, many people may be surprised to find that Danny Boyle’s latest is a disarmingly charming character piece set in the beating heart of India’s largest city.
Yet as 2005’s Millions has already shown, Boyle knows ‘intimate’ and he knows ‘heart’. While comparisons can be drawn to that movie, Slumdog Millionaire is boosted by its unique, intoxicating and bewildering mash-up of Hollywood’s Fable-like sensibilities with Bollywood’s relentless sense of energy and passion.
The ‘I can’t believe they actually pull this off’ plot follows 18-year-old slum-dweller Jamal Malik’s (The Skins’ Dev Patel) extraordinary performance on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and the way in which every significant moment in his life, from the heart-wrenching to the heart-affirming, have helped form his knowledge of the answers. As the first day’s show concludes, Malik is arrested on suspicion of cheating and he is forced to recall and relive each experience to a suspicious but increasingly intrigued police officer (Irrfan Khan) in order to clear his name.
To give any further away would be to spoil the experience, for Millionaire’s magic comes from the way in which the viewer is swept away by the spiralling fairy-tale nature of Malik’s life. Each new question initiates a flash-back that explores the very notions of love, family and friendship, with each and every one guaranteed to leave you breathless.
For all its colour, passion and vibrancy, it’s still a tale grounded in reality. And while mythical in its often co-incidental nature, Boyle hasn’t shirked away from the often brutal, unflinching realities of life in the slums.
But amidst all the chaos, poverty and hardship is a city bursting with life, and this is where Boyle’s love for the place really shines through. It’s such a gushing, unrestrained ode to Mumbai I would be surprised if his teenage years weren’t spent cuffing the puppy to Playboy’s ‘Travel’ sections.
This authentic, vivid and undeniably personal representation of the city is all the more impressive when you appreciate Boyle hails from the industrial, grey-skied council estates of Greater Manchester. As a tourist he may always exist on the outskirts of Indian culture, but this film offers up one of the first genuine and believable examples of an increasingly likely Hollywood/Bollywood synergy that could revolutionise the film industry. By experimenting with a melding of the two (the film is spoken one third Hindu/two thirds English, with softened, coloured subtitles offering easy-reading; the epic, windswept conclusion effortlessly segues into a traditional Bollywood dance), Millionaire takes cues from both without disrespecting either.
If you would’ve said to me five years ago that a repetitive, tired game-show format fronted by a smug, irritating presenter could be turned into a Dickensian, epically romantic tale that encapsulates the myriad experiences that life can offer, I would’ve laughed.
But after seeing Slumdog, I’d like to place the first bet for 2013’s Best Film Oscar going to an indie-remake of ‘Deal Or No Deal’.