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Overall Rating
3.6

Awesome44.94%
Worth A Look: 15.17%
Average: 8.99%
Pretty Bad: 16.85%
Total Crap: 14.04%

7 reviews, 136 user ratings


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Slumdog Millionaire
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by Martin Schoo

"A dazzling passage to India"
3 stars

This kinetic film by versatile British director Danny Boyle is an action-packed, sentimental, manipulative joy. To criticise its unbelievable nature would be to miss the point entirely – it’s designed as a modern day fairytale, complete with Bollywood ending.

The story centres around a slum kid, Jamal, and his older brother Salim. 18-year-old Jamal has made it as a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and the film tells his life in flashback, via the stories that inspired his correct answers.

At the beginning, we see the two boys amongst a group chased off a runway by police, intent on breaking up their trespasser’s cricket game. Both sides hold sticks – the police have batons; the children, cricket stumps. The kids are for now still relatively innocent, but life is about to reveal its brutalising ways.

An early tragedy forces the two brothers on the run, taking with them another child, a girl named Latika. Jamal’s instant and undying affection for her is in some ways the backbone of the film. Soon after teaming up, they are tricked by a Fagin-like figure into joining his band of beggars. Coke, surely the most obvious symbol of Western influence, is used to bribe the children into co-operating with their own kidnapping.

Jamal is separated from his brother and Latika at many stages of his young life, and the film explores his determination to track them down. These adventures are punctuated by sections of Jamal’s appearance on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

The filmmakers’ decision to feature a game show is both a handy framing device as well as a comment on the nature of chance and luck in modern era India. By showing us events spanning 18 years of Jamal’s life, we see not only changes within his immediate world, but within India as a whole. The slums in which he roamed as a child transform into apartment blocks, the telecommunications industry is booming, and the very Western game show on which he appears is also a clear reminder of globalisation’s unstoppable flow.

The majority of the characters are painted in broad brushstrokes (sinister villains, saintly heroes, long-suffering girlfriend etc). While this use of stereotypes is in keeping with the conventions of a fable, it has the effect of making many characters a little one-dimensional. Thus, we experience the film somewhat at arms’ length.

In many ways, it’s Salim, not Jamal, who is the most complex and fully developed character, his struggle between conflicting loyalties a most compelling and tragic one. The complex relationship of give and take between the two brothers provides emotional resonance, more so than Jamal’s dogged persistence in tracking down his one and only Latika. As in many fables, the hero is somewhat bland (although not unsympathetic).

Slumdog is a Western film about India, not a Bollywood creation, and the fact that the brothers don’t know about the Taj Mahal is as symbolic as the tourist attraction itself. They are so divorced from foreign concepts of India that one comments ‘What is it - some hotel, huh?’ They become freelance guides, cheerfully spinning new history for the tourists, and stealing the shoes that the foreigners have taken off in such a culturally-sensitive way. This is just one example of the casual black humour which peppers the film in between romance and calamity.

The Taj Mahal is an India created by outsiders – their own safe, postcard version of the country. No wonder it seems so foreign to the boys. When a tourist’s car is ransacked and the chauffeur attacks him in retribution, Salim yells out at his clients ‘You wanted the real India - this is the real India.’
This might as well be Boyle talking about his movie. Because for all its fairytale qualities, the film exposes some brutal and ugly truths about the country.

This film believes in God, or at the very least, fate. ‘It is written’, a phrase repeated again and again, is an explicit reference to preordained happenings. The film’s simple structure and morality are refreshing, not limiting: the upbeat nature the film ultimately adopts is far more shocking nowadays than a routine twist ending.

Beyond these religious undertones is an inspiring embrace of the details of life. Even in their moments of struggle, there are bursts of true happiness – the brothers running gleefully atop a speeding train; boys laughing mischievously at police in hot pursuit; Latika’s smiling face as she looks up to greet Jamal at the station. At one stage the film even goes so far as to rewind to this latter point, as if to remind us of the importance of such moments.
The money Jamal stands to pocket is the fruit of such zest for life - the details which stick so vividly in his mind have done so because he is able to live in the moment, whatever the moment might hold.

Early in the film, Jamal must choose between staying locked in a drop toilet, or plunging into a pit of faeces in order to glimpse his screen idol. That he emerges victorious is the essence of the film’s optimistic message: stay true to your dreams and to truth, and you will be rewarded, no matter how much shit gets in the way.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17382&reviewer=423
originally posted: 01/21/09 16:01:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
5/17/17 Louise Grips from start to finish! Great soundtrack too. 5 stars
4/20/14 Ewan Lewis Messy... The book is a good-read the movie is terrible...All their is really to say... :/ 1 stars
12/24/11 debbie hodgdon so good i went to the theatre twice and brought a friend 5 stars
12/30/09 terror watch the unusual structure makes it a great film 5 stars
10/26/09 RLan a well done love story. Not best picture worthy, but still a good film. 4 stars
10/22/09 Emma i LOVE this movie. it is my favorite now. i don't think it's shallow or contrived crap... 5 stars
8/18/09 parrot outstanding cinema 5 stars
7/13/09 nic cage this movie is like city of god with a bollywood feel 5 stars
7/07/09 michael mann i personally think this is boyle's best film, diff from trainspotting 5 stars
7/05/09 MP Bartley Colourful but contrived, stylish but shallow; a messy success. 4 stars
7/03/09 roger federer beautiful visuals alone make this a masterpiece 5 stars
6/29/09 blackberry outstanding, outstanding and outstanding 5 stars
6/28/09 will tenner beautiful feel good cinema 5 stars
6/27/09 gandalf very good filmmaking style, cinemaography 5 stars
6/22/09 devastator like a modern update on charles dickens 5 stars
6/22/09 Simon A needed fresh setting of imagery, but trite-gimmicky plot renders themes non-transcendent 4 stars
6/18/09 jurisprudence outstanding story, great editing and cineamtography 5 stars
6/12/09 tung ton deserved oscar; feel good pic yes, great story too 5 stars
6/03/09 Pete Snot A hopelessly contrived mess, simplistic and forgettable. 1 stars
6/03/09 Anannya 1st half great although a bit much. 2nd half ridiculous. Love story protracted and shitty. 4 stars
5/26/09 Anonymous. didn't think it was '08's best picture, but still really good. 4 stars
5/09/09 Disappointed Not moving. Isn't there enough real poverty to find a real story to base this on? Sham. 2 stars
5/04/09 Mac Where is erik and the other quality reviewers? this was amazing. cornelius is the worst. 5 stars
4/29/09 dude easily one of the best movies i've seen last year 5 stars
4/13/09 skinner oustanding direction 5 stars
4/10/09 farrow no the movie is better than the book 5 stars
4/09/09 tarantino one of the best movies ever made. Very well directed 5 stars
4/02/09 conair best movie ever 5 stars
4/01/09 Gorgon Zola Isn't there a law prohibiting this much schmaltz in a movie? 2 stars
4/01/09 Gorgon Zola Maybe they should call the Razzies Oscars and the Oscars Razzies. Would make more sense. 1 stars
3/23/09 Bnorm Great movie. it affected me like every great movie should. 5 stars
3/14/09 mr.mike 4.5 stars 4 stars
3/02/09 Ruben If you want the true Slumdog Millionaire experience read the book. The movie is no match. 2 stars
3/02/09 Koitus I thought it was very well done. Very few "dry eyes" after viewing the ending scene. 5 stars
2/28/09 Elaine first half excellent, second half OK 4 stars
2/26/09 rose Fantastic Movie- worth every award that it got! 5 stars
2/25/09 Dorie One of the most exciting, endearing, satisfying movie I have seen for a long, long time. 5 stars
2/24/09 pm Long , boring , Best picture ? I just do not get it. 1 stars
2/24/09 Vince If this exact movie took place in american ghetto it would have been seen as garbage it is 2 stars
2/23/09 noops.... The name itself is bull shit.... they r not dogs .... damn u danny.... 1 stars
2/23/09 Steven We've all seen this movie before, just not with Indian actors. That itself will fool many. 2 stars
2/23/09 L.C. Liked this movie, but it was not the best of the year. 4 stars
2/21/09 RedBaron Weak plot, weak characters, bad acting (except for the kid actors) 2 stars
2/21/09 Mira Slum kids don't speak English, you fool. Contrived shit. 1 stars
2/20/09 Derkerdog Over-rated to say the least. Shallow and predictable. 1 stars
2/19/09 Obi Wan Saw this after Hype, it was good. Not great. Dark Knight was better, so was Doubt 4 stars
2/12/09 incomepoop like it, esp the last 45 minutes or so, very suspenseful, all the tv watchers 4 stars
2/10/09 Aesop Poverty: bad. Schlock: Good. Like we needed this info. 1 stars
2/09/09 sid2323 Had potential but lost steam; esp with the romance side of things. Kid actors were great! 3 stars
2/08/09 zarf critic seems to think everywher is like the US. movie wasnt demeaning at all. great movie! 5 stars
2/06/09 Alejandro Sosa Out of this word amazing, couldn't take my eyes of the screen. 5 stars
2/04/09 MP Bartley Colourful and vibrant if uneven at the end. 4 stars
2/03/09 dude forgettable, contrived, exploitative, undeserving of grammatically correct comment 2 stars
2/03/09 Piz Love all the negative reviews-it shows how idiotic people are. This movie is outstanding! 5 stars
2/03/09 jcjs33 easily best picture of the year other than 'Rachel Getting Married' , a wowser 5 stars
2/01/09 Adam BAD MOVIE, ITS A DISNEY MOVIE FOR ADULTS.... STUPID 1 stars
1/30/09 Alec Walked out after 10 minutes. Not for me . . . 2 stars
1/29/09 Ray Agree with reviewer. This film is overhyped and shallow filled with lazy caricatures/ 3 stars
1/27/09 Luisa Absolutely compelling. Child actors are amazing. Great flick! 5 stars
1/26/09 phillip usually agree with this reviewer. not this time. 5 stars
1/26/09 Marion Pitiful passivity of the slumdog heroine devoid of credibility. Totally ruined it for me. 2 stars
1/25/09 Peta The 1st half of this movie was fantasic; the 2nd half was contrived crap of the worst kind! 1 stars
1/25/09 Pete Painful 1 stars
1/25/09 Anita Hugely entertaining along with outstanding social commentary. Bravo! 5 stars
1/24/09 Iyps I would say it is worth the buck... Energy of the film is great, except few disgusting sce 4 stars
1/24/09 jcjs33 Best Picture along with 'Rachel...'clever, fast, colorful, wow music, real, wonderful 5 stars
1/24/09 Joanne I HATED this movie!! HATED HATED HATED. 1 stars
1/23/09 s. Liked the movie but liked Kite Runner better. Entertaining copy-cat movie. 5 stars
1/23/09 Patrick I enjoyed the movie but it had many flaws. The central love story was implausible. 4 stars
1/23/09 Arif Zaidi Lightening fast pace movie, sparkling colors, terrific camera, superb script. Blockbuster. 5 stars
1/22/09 Randy It's different and I love it for that. Hyped or not it was great! 5 stars
1/22/09 Jason I AGREE THIS FILM SUCKS 2 stars
1/20/09 anusree wonderful............. 5 stars
1/20/09 Judy Had to depart after 10 minutes, too violent 2 stars
1/19/09 g. another great film from danny boyle 5 stars
1/18/09 DJ This Idiot Critic Just Wants Attention 5 stars
1/18/09 zac yea terrible film, let's see, best film Golden Globes,Critic Choice Awards,ETC! 5 stars
1/17/09 Smitty A wonderful love story. Manipulative - yeh - like a Dickens novel and I love to read them. 5 stars
1/16/09 Nick Great movie, loved it, get over your ridiculous pretentions... 5 stars
1/16/09 John Not one character worth caring about. Lucks out and can now buy the unfaithful prostitute. 1 stars
1/16/09 Siva BEST of 2009 5 stars
1/15/09 Jeff Best movie of the year. Original, funny, touching, epic. Should win the Oscar. 5 stars
1/14/09 Ajay K Absurd story-line, phoney love interest 1 stars
1/14/09 Abisha 4 gloden globes, have they gone mad? 1 stars
1/13/09 Louise Involving, colourful, great soundtrack and wonderfully Indian! 5 stars
1/13/09 Rose Very clever how personal experiences resulted in correct answers on TV show. 5 stars
1/10/09 R.W. Welch Jolting look at slum-level life in India. Cleverly plotted. B+ 4 stars
1/09/09 noops.... What westerners want to see abt (poor)India is shown..but A R Rehman's music is awesome... 3 stars
1/09/09 NAC All my friends and family loved it but I did not. The impact of violence was traivialized 3 stars
1/09/09 Stan An okay movie in an era when Hollywood puts out very bad movies. Overhyped? Yes! 3 stars
1/09/09 Rahul S Thanks for a great review. The movie is crap and there are technical flaws aplenty 1 stars
1/09/09 Porter After 1/2 hour of this uber-child abuse film, I up and left! 1 stars
1/07/09 Dana sometimes, suspension of disbelief is needed to appreciate great fiction. lighten up. 5 stars
1/05/09 Lisa Well made, total Hollywood (Bollywood?) cliche. 3 stars
1/05/09 Irv It was manipulative , contrived & quite frankly not well done. 1 stars
1/05/09 Flounder The best picture of the year. It's funny, dramatic, heartbreaking and touching all at once 5 stars
1/04/09 nick clarke Why does a film like this need gentle subtlety? It us a realistic look at India! 5 stars
1/04/09 Waltizzle!!! Completely overrated! Only good after the guy wrote B on the mirror!!! 1 stars
1/02/09 Slamb Thanks for this sensible review. Can't believe so many critics loved it. 2 stars
12/31/08 Robert S Right on. I found it incredibly violent, noisy, nasty, clichéd and overdone. 2 stars
12/31/08 Ashish Biswas As a human and as an Indian, I have loved this film. The critic has balls for brains! 5 stars
12/30/08 Macroniche I agree with a lot of your review, however I lived this film just the same 4 stars
12/30/08 Alex One of the better stories I've ever seen told on film...this critic is clearly a moron. 5 stars
12/29/08 B This review is garbage and doesnt make any sense. Movie is amazing!! 5 stars
12/28/08 Patrick I enjoyed this movie very much. Don't fully agree with this critic. 5 stars
12/28/08 marilyn kruse I read so many rave reviews from the critics, but I was unable to get involved in this. 2 stars
12/28/08 Sonie Best Movie I've seen in years, incredibly uplifting 5 stars
12/28/08 Niki Uh what movie did this guy watch?! this movie was amazing. Rich and so real. Worth ur money 5 stars
12/27/08 Melanie M. Best movie I have seen all year. This critic merely looks for things to be insulting about. 5 stars
12/27/08 fred best film of the year 5 stars
12/27/08 Philip Buckley-Mellor One of the best, and oddly realistic, films I've seen 5 stars
12/27/08 AJ Movie was brilliant! Those who dont buy wats shown, visit india, people like Fagin do exist 5 stars
12/26/08 Grace I loved it and thought it was one of the better movies I've seen in a while. 5 stars
12/26/08 Monica I suppose, technically, the reviewer is right. But see it anyways. 4 stars
12/26/08 Mrs. Mom Powerful, interesting, exciting, what more do you want from a film? 5 stars
12/25/08 ROBO I'm a cynic, but I thought this was one terrific movie, best I've seen this year! 5 stars
12/24/08 June totally agree with reviewer...made me anxious and depressed. too mch violence. 3 stars
12/22/08 Houston Ignore the review, go see this movie. It is incredibly interesting and entertaining. 5 stars
12/22/08 Suresh The critic's views are easier to agree if you've seen movies like Salaam Bombay. 3 stars
12/22/08 Karan Puri Another Black & White, stereotypical prtrayal of life in India. Tragic that people buy it. 2 stars
12/21/08 PAUL SHORTT A CONCEIT THAT GROWS HORRIBLY STALE 2 stars
12/20/08 Lawrence This critic takes himself way too seriously. 5 stars
12/20/08 John Back Totally agree-an Indian fairy tale w/violent plot. 2 stars
12/13/08 Mike Gimmicky garbage, I didn't buy any of it. 2 stars
12/11/08 Suzz Very good film with an interesting narrative style. 4 stars
12/11/08 nl The film is good, I enjoyed it. Worth paying for. But, completely agree with the review. 4 stars
12/10/08 Bob Excellent movie, totally worth seeing. Although might be a bit overpraised . . . 4 stars
12/09/08 Jenny Latica was NOT about to lose her virginity, she was having dance lessons!!?? 3 stars
12/08/08 Kacie Exactly right. Flashiness can't hide a sentimental, uninspired love story. 3 stars
12/07/08 dyli Just saw the movie. His review makes complete sense. 4 stars
12/07/08 mpdesign Don't listen to this man or you will miss a great movie 5 stars
12/06/08 Robert Anyone who reads this review should simply disregard it and go see the movie. 5 stars
12/06/08 Igor This guy was watching a different movie. Perfect example of disagreeing for the sake of it. 5 stars
12/05/08 Faye wrong...GREAT MOVIE...gee, don't know what movie could get a 5 star from this person 5 stars
11/14/08 gaurav mittal good 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  12-Nov-2008 (R)
  DVD: 31-Mar-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  12-Nov-2008
  DVD: 31-Mar-2009


Directed by
  Danny Boyle

Written by
  Simon Beaufoy

Cast
  Dev Patel
  Anil Kapoor
  Irfan Khan
  Freida Pinto



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