Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire

Before we start on the film itself, let's take a moment to consider the career of Danny Boyle.

He came to everyone's attention with a film called Shallow Grave. This film was essentially a TV movie, with a 1950s Film Noir plot, that launched the careers of Christopher Eccleston and Ewan McGregor. Nothing special, unless you count that shot of Keith Allen's shrivelled todger.

But then, there was Trainspotting. This film had energy, imagination and daring in spades. It launched a thousand copycat posters. No other film before or since ever trod the fine line between drugs=bad and drugs=good with such aplomb.

Then what next? A Life Less Ordinary, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine. All of those films definitely had their moments, but at the same time shared one thing in common - big ideas, not quite successfully or satisfactorily executed. All solid three star films, in other words. Although Vacuuming Completely Naked in Paradise was a masterpiece in its groundbreaking use of emerging DV technology.

But now, Slumdog Millionaire.

Boyle's first film since Trainspotting to capture lightning in a bottle, and it's brilliant. It's basically City of God meets Lagaan meets Who Wants to Be a Millionaire; it's going to be one of the best films of 2009; and if it doesn't win at least 3 Oscars it'll be a travesty.

This is also a renaissance of sorts for Simon Beaufoy, who since The Full Monty has been treading water - but makes a triumphant return with a script that is both Fabergé egg intricate yet so beautifully simple.

The story is about Javed, a kid from the slums who ends up going all the way on India's version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, just so that he can rescue his childhood sweetheart Latika. Key thing to remember is, in India the questions are impossibly hard. Rocket scientists and doctors never get to the final round. So this boy is obviously cheating. Or is he?

As he's interrogated by policemen overnight, with his chance of tackling the final question hanging in the balance, he tells them his life story. As he tells this story, each of his seemingly impossible correct answers begin to make perfect sense.

Throughout, the film constantly skirts the fine line between gritty realism and Bollywood fantasy - and constantly asks the multiple choice question we see at the very beginning of the film. When the answer is given, we realise that throughout, the writer and director have been playing with genre convention itself.

The main character in the film is Mumbai itself. Not since Fernando Meirelles' City of God has one city been so lovingly or energetically filmed. But who's the best supporting character? In all the rave reviews so far, one character seems to have been overlooked. Yes, Dev Patel and Freida Pinto are enchanting leads - but Salim, Patel's brother, is a tragic hero for our times.

But all that's just skimming the surface. It's a perfect fairytale for our times - it's about money, after all. Slumdog Millionaire is also a perfect film. Beautifully written, directed and acted, and if you don't like it, then you're basically a mug, like this woman here.




  1. AFTER THE WEDDING « NewFilmBlog says:

    [...] work and well worth seeking out. Mads Mikkelsen is Jacob, an aid worker in Mumbai (parallels with Slumdog Millionaire here) who feeds street kids, and looks after 50 or so children in his own orphanage. He is [...]

  2. Willy says:

    I shall be going to see that soon. Probably tomorrow.
    Was wary you might litter review with spoilers.
    Oh yee/me of little faith!

  3. Jim Buck says:

    I thought it was great all the way through. Jools enjoyed the first act more than the other two. It has typical Danny Boyle motifs: the chase through the streets, which introduces us to the environment the characters inhabit; the plunge into the toilet; the exploitation of tourists; even a reference to Sean Connery.

    There were subtleties that I liked too. The one that comes to mind is when the lads gatecrash the open-air opera. The tenor on stage (Orpheus)is singing to his 'Eurydice'. Than there is a flashback to the moment when Latika fails to make it on to the train; and she's left behind like Eurydice in Hades.

    Incidently, Rony Robinson wrote a 30 minute radio play (years ago) which took the format of Desert Island Discs. It was about a woman in Norfolk Park flats listening to 6 records and being prompted to rememberances of a failed relationship.