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A Love Less Ordinary

MOVIE REVIEW
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Original
Ishika Mohan/Fox Searchlight Pictures

If nothing else, “Slumdog Millionaire” should prove that Danny Boyle is no fluke. He injects so much adrenaline into a classic Dickensian storyline that it will sweep moviegoers away long before they have a chance to catch a breath or even realize just how familiar it all is – this story of an orphan who grew up in the slums becoming a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” in hopes of reconnecting with his childhood sweetheart. Indeed, even with a title that nearly spoils everything, one would still have to be made of stone to not walk out of this film with chills up the spine and tears down the face.

Mr. Boyle first garnered international attention with the hyperkinetic “Trainspotting,” but his most commercially successful effort in America to date is the far less imaginative zombie flick “28 Days Later …” The British filmmaker has spent the past decade wandering aimlessly through different genres to mixed results, yet so far his films’ stubbornly ambiguous morality has consistently left viewers cold. Finally, Mr. Boyle has returned to the familiar terrain of friendship, money, betrayal and the worst toilets in the world. What’s more, he’s so much better at it this time that it’s impossible to imagine another director ever improving upon the material.

“Slumdog” is every bit as stylized as Mr. Boyle’s early works, and the film’s theme and exotic Mumbai locale undoubtedly invite comparisons to “City of God.” Adapted from a Vikas Swarup novel by “The Full Monty” scribe Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog” adopts a zigzagging, time-jumping narrative that lends itself to Mr. Boyle’s over-the-top treatment. But whereas the Fernando Meirelles film suffered from the same heartlessness as Mr. Boyle’s previous efforts, “Slumdog” actually has a soul. It is truly to Mr. Boyle’s credit that he pulls all the seemingly excessive fragments into cohesion, all the while compelling viewers to truly feel for a protagonist played at different ages by three separate actors. While Mr. Meirelles predicated his approach on a seemingly colonialist bystander viewpoint, Mr. Boyle here summons universal identification with characters while still fully immersed in the specificity of their milieu.

Feelings of love, loss, greed, fear and hope are so overwhelming in “Slumdog Millionaire” that you might easily forget it takes place thousands of miles away. Maybe fairy tales aren’t meant for grown-ups, but this film should make you a believer in fate and destiny again no matter how old you are.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

Opens on Nov. 12 in the United States and on Jan. 9, 2009 in Britain.

Directed by Danny Boyle; written by Simon Beaufoy, based on the novel “Q & A” by Vikas Swarup; director of photography, Anthony Dod Mantel; edited by Chris Dickens; music by A. R. Rahman; production designer, Mark Digby; produced by Christian Colson; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures (United States) and Pathé Distribution (Britain). Running time: 2 hours. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Dev Patel (Jamal), Ayush Mahesh Khedekar (Youngest Jamal), Freida Pinto (Latika), Rubina Ali (Youngest Latika), Madhur Mittal (Salim), Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail (Youngest Salim), Anil Kapoor (Prem) and Irrfan Khan (Police Inspector).

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