On Screen

Slumdog Millionaire: Whooosh!

In the opening scenes of Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal Malik (our pure-hearted hero, the good son) sits in a Mumbai police station where a fat cop beats the shit out of him, digging for a confession. Jamal, a poor, uneducated teenage nobody—the "slumdog" of the title—is on the verge of winning a historic jackpot on the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Somehow, surely, the cops reason (wait, the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Police? Isn't there actual crime to deal with?), Jamal is cheating his slummy ass off. He must be stopped.

They review the tape of that day's show, and Jamal takes them, question by question, through his past and the odd, snarled strings of fate that delivered him to each correct answer. Once, as a child in the slums of Mumbai, a movie star's plane landed on a nearby airfield and Jamal was memorably dunked in some feces. That movie star's name is the answer to the first question, and Jamal remembers (because of the feces). Another time, in the clutches of an evil crime lord, Jamal was forced to sing to see if he was suitable to be blinded and turned out on the street to beg ("Blind singers earn double"). The evil crime lord's favorite song is the answer to another question. And so on.

And soon, Slumdog Millionaire—directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) and Loveleen Tandan—makes itself clear: It is the simplest thing. It's just a fairy tale, maybe the most delightfully straightforward adaptation of folkloric archetypes I've seen in a modern movie, a series of trials (riddling sphinxes, giants to be slain, princesses in need of rescue—all figuratively, natch) separating Jamal from happily ever after and all that.

The film is exhilarating and gorgeous and contains the most sublime use of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" (not sick of it yet!) through which you've ever had the pleasure of whooshing. Little skinny-limbed boys navigate treachery and temptation and mountains of garbage, seas of garbage—their corner of Mumbai is all lurid colors and postapocalyptic beauty. Boyle's ambition is exhilarating—if he's going to fail, he's going to fail spectacularly (and the second half of the film is shamelessly melodramatic)—and Slumdog Millionaire is a crazy, blazing contradiction. Childhood comforts meet startling innovation. Nostalgic newness. What the fuck? I loved it. recommended


Comments (12) RSS

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Posted by Mr. Poe on November 19, 2008 at 5:20 PM · Report this
Darn! I got free passes from the Fox rep for this and couldn't go - had to work. I couldn't even GIVE them away. People were skeptical.

So I get a stack of about 25 free movie passes a month. If anyone wants to go to "The Wrestler" on Monday, Nov 24th at 7:00pm, come by Vermillion - 1508 11th Ave - and I'll give you a pass.

THIS ONE features Mickey Rourke and Evan Rachel Wood. Oh and it's directed by Darren Aronofsky who will be there for a post Q & A with Marisa Tomei. Geeeeeesh.. can't say that this one has as much potential as the SD movie but, whatever. It actually sounds like possibly the worst movie ever made.
Posted by Diana on November 19, 2008 at 10:46 PM · Report this
I know The Wrestler screened for some people already on Tuesaday. Do you know where that was ? Also, I live in Pierce County, what theater are the passes for, I just want to know because it's a long drive ? Appreciate it if you answered back !
Posted by Kurt on November 20, 2008 at 12:46 AM · Report this
I live in Los Angeles and have seen the movie. I enjoyed it.

However, I'm wondering if Lindy even knows what she's talking about when she says things like:

"Childhood comforts meet startling innovation. Nostalgic newness."

Really? Really?

She "loved it", yet dismisses it as a "fairy tale". Be mindful of double-talk, Seattle.
Posted by Jack on November 20, 2008 at 10:52 AM · Report this
God forbid! anyone write something critical about the stranger.

Thanks for deleting the comment, you dicks.
Posted by Jack on November 20, 2008 at 11:06 AM · Report this
I love fairy tales. Next!
Posted by Lindy West on November 20, 2008 at 11:42 AM · Report this
Am I the only person who hated it? The cliches were unbearable
Posted by biju on November 27, 2008 at 4:28 PM · Report this
also, in hindi, the show is actually called kaun banega crorepati. and amitabh bachchan hosts it. i don't think they could afford to put him in this movie.
Posted by slackerina on December 1, 2008 at 9:18 AM · Report this
slackerina, I read an Indian article that said they talked to "Big B" but both sides decided he is now too old for the roles that eventually went to Anil Kapoor (host) or Irrfan Khan (inspector.)
Posted by Big Sven on December 7, 2008 at 10:08 PM · Report this
First half - fantastic; second half - unbearable crap.
Posted by shaynie on December 21, 2008 at 6:06 PM · Report this
The framing device was clever but the whole "good brother/bad brother/girl who comes between" set up was incontinent when D.W. Griffith was in his prime. And, there's about 4 too many MTV montage moments for my taste.

And, I know women tend to be marginalized in Indian society (well, all society, actually) but couldn't we have had a couple female characters to add something to the story? And did the Girl have to be so boring? Would it have killed them to give her a little more depth and make her a living, breathing person instead of only being a pretty plot point?

But, the actors were good (esp the youngest set of the three main characters, even covered in poo) and the soundtrack does kick some ass. And, I enjoyed the fact that I audibly heard people in the audience smugly announce the answer to the final question outloud, only to be proven wrong...(I got it right)
Posted by michael strangeways on December 30, 2008 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Saw it last night, thought it was certainly Oscar-worthy. I've seen better, but it is Oscar-worthy nonetheless.
Posted by A on January 15, 2009 at 12:59 AM · Report this

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