Running time: 120 mins. Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Irffan Khan, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor. Director: Danny Boyle.
More than 25 years after Gandhi swept all before it at the Academy Awards, another British film embedded in Indian culture is poised to conquer the world.
Scripted by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty), Slumdog Millionaire is an utterly irresistible rites of passage drama that builds to an extraordinary emotional crescendo.
Employing a simple flashback structure, Danny Boyle’s modern-day fairy-tale charts the extraordinary journey of an orphan from the slums of Mumbai to the contestant’s chair on his country’s version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
The suspense within the television studio, where host Prem (Kapoor) poses each multiple-choice question, is nothing compared to the tensions within Beaufoy’s multi-layered screenplay.
In the space of a single vignette, the film glides from sidesplitting comedy to gut-wrenching despair, with an honesty and subtlety that continually catches us off guard.
Indeed, there is as much darkness as light here, including scenes of torture, child abuse, exploitation and degradation that reflect the meagre lot of children born into a rat run of makeshift housing, detritus, dirty water and shattered dreams.
You won’t need to ask the rest of the audience or phone a friend — from the opening frame, it’s clear Boyle has hit the jackpot.
Slumdog Millionaire may just be the best film you see all year.
The 18-year-old Jamal Malik (Patel) has been raised by older brother Salim (Mittal) since the boys lost their mother to the violence of a religious uprising.
Falling into the clutches of child-slave traders and other nefarious types, the youngsters use guile to survive on the streets, encountering a pretty orphan girl called Latika (Pinto), who will change their lives forever.
As months and years pass, Salim becomes a lackey to a brutal ganglord, who forcibly takes Latika as his wife, beating her when she dares to challenge him.
Unable to rescue the woman he loves from her predicament, Jamal seizes the opportunity to appear on a television quiz show.
Miraculously, Jamal knows the answer to each question and as he edges closer to the 20-million rupee final question, the young man stands on the precipice of a momentous leap of faith that could rescue Latika and finally drag him and Salim out of the gutter.
Set to the infectious rhythms of AR Rahman’s evocative soundtrack, Slumdog Millionaire doesn’t strike a single false note as it pieces together the chronologically fragmented narrative, drawing us into Jamal’s incredible story.
Patel and the actors who play the hero’s younger incarnations hold us spellbound, delivering natural performances that tug the heartstrings.
The plot continually defies expectations, most obviously in the closing minutes when we’re left weeping hot tears of unbridled joy, though not for a conventional happy ever after.
You can’t teach slumdogs new tricks.
Swearing. Violence. No Sex. Rating:10/10