Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 4/3/09

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.

Slumdog Millionaire

At this year’s Academy Awards, Slumdog Millionaire - a small, independent film about a boy from the slums of India - came from seemingly nowhere to rule the night, taking home 8 awards including Best Picture. Given that fact, and the fact that everyone I talk to who has seen it raves about it, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. With my wife and daughter gone visiting family for the weekend, my friend Scott and I got together last night and rented the film, and it more than lived up to the hype.

Slumdog tells the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a boy from the slums of Mumbai who grows up and ends up on the Indian version of the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Against all odds, Jamal – despite having no formal education – is one question away from the grand prize. Believing that such a feat is impossible for a “slumdog,” Jamal is arrested on suspicion of fraud on the night before he will go on the air to answer the final question. As he is interrogated by the police, he tells the story of his life, and recounts the series of events that brought him to this place and gave him the answers to the questions.

The movie succeeds on virtually every level possible. The story is a modern fairytale, complete with love, loss, evil villains and an epic journey. The film is cleverly written and has a great sense of humor, a huge accomplishment given the weighty subject matter often involved. The ensemble cast gives fantastic performances, with the three main characters – Jamal, his brother Salim, and Latika, the girl he spends a lifetime searching for – being played by several young actors each as they grow up over the course of the film. The movie is visually stunning, beautifully photographing both the gritty, grimy slums and India’s beauty with equal skill. The music is fantastic striking exactly the right tone for every scene. The structure of the storytelling is incredibly engaging, alternating between Jamal’s appearance on the game show, his interrogation, and flashbacks of his life. Each scene perfectly sets the stage for the next. The themes the movie explores are fantastic, from the romance (which is one of the best on-screen love stories I’ve seen in a long while, moving largely because of its innocence and simplicity) to the underlying idea which begins with a question posed by the film during the opening moments. Everything about this movie felt right, not only about its parts but about the whole – a testimony to director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later, Millions) and his ability to put together a fantastic film. Slumdog Millionaire carries about as much of an unreserved recommendation as I can give. This is a great movie, a true classic, and a fantastic achievement in storytelling. - **** (out of four)

Slumdog Millionaire is rated R for some violence, disturbing images, and language.

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