Created on 13/1/2009
“Slumdog Millionaire” is a modern fable, a feel good movie that is wonderful, heartwarming and richly rewarding. I don’t quite accept the critical claims for this film being great, but it does deserving the avalanche of accolades it has already amassed, and all the awards it is likely to receive.
In his latest film, "Slumdog Millionaire," the gifted British director Danny Boyle injects pace, energy, love, drive and wonder into the film’s unquenchable hero Jamal and the dizzying tides of life that is the city of Mumbai. Boyle captures a dazzling tapestry with the excellent assistance of his cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who utilizes a perfectly conceived helter skelter, off the shoulder approach.
Boyle and his screenplay writer Simon Beaufoy developed the ideal flashback device to tell this story, complete with panache and pace, even if it is all a bit inevitable. That inevitability is the only weakness of this type of film, you do know what’s going to happen by the end of it, but the journey is nevertheless hugely enjoyable.
I am not a fan of time shifts in the form of flashbacks but this movie does employ the device very successfully, which forces me to accept it. Boyle’s sheer gusto and élan together with his mastery of his tool kit enables him to grab his audience by the throat and dance them around the halls of his mind with his sheer pleasure evident and shared with his audience in every frame.
The wonderfully vibrant storytelling is captivating and life affirming, but by far the film’s most enduring accomplishment is Boyle's ability to express and develop the complexity of two brothers' enduring love for each other and that of Jamal for the girl who is the love of his life.
All the actors excel but I do question the fact that all the adult males are malevolent to a greater or lesser extent. I imagine that Boyle had to restrain a great deal of Bollywood over-acting but whoever it was that dealt with this deserves great credit because the acting is all first rate.
Shooting "Slumdog," was financed by the now-defunct Warner Independent Pictures. Scribe Simon Beaufoy ("The Full Monty") according to the director took considerable and necessary liberties with the original novel, which is based on an apocryphal story about a teen from the slums of Mumbai (played by Dev Patel) who wins 20 million rupees (roughly $400,000) on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Put that figure in the context of a city in which having enough food to eat for the week ahead is prosperity.
Boyle said, "There's a billion people racing ahead in a 10% growth economy, enough to start up a decent-size planet from scratch. Did a slum kid go on the show? There are lots of stories. Educated people went on pretending to be rickshaw drivers. If the story isn't true, it should be."
Beaufoy's rags-to-riches mystery-romance created a space for Boyle to inhabit and fluidly float back in time without resorting to the usual flashback tricks and ticks, which he feels means that this film is not like other predictable like flashback movies.
Boyle's bold challenge was to prove he could make $15 million look like a whole lot more. "I like that tension," he says. "I don't want to make a dirty indie film struggling with paltry resources. I want to make a film that looks like it cost $50 million or $60 million."
"It's a different way of grabbing reality and it has an intensity to it," he says. "It lets the mind float off places." This is similar to the filming style he used on "28 Days Later," and he says this filming style allowed his crew and second unit on "Slumdog" to act instinctively and grab shots wherever they could.
I must admit to a very slight vested interest since the writer of this adapted screenplay, the very talented Simon Beaufoy, who also wrote The Full Monty, is a graduate of The Bournemouth Film School where I was once Course Director. Simon preceded me at that great place and our paths only crossed at social gatherings. The strange thing is that although he has written two such heart-warming and amusing films he is the most serious minded of men, with little or no idea that he is so gifted with these attributes. Left to his own devices he would make the most depressing films ever.
The big Golden Globe wins for "Slumdog Millionaire" -- already the most successful platform release of the season – gives us every reason to anticipate more from Danny Boyle and that can only be a big plus.
It is a thrill to watch films from someone who bursts with a passion for his work: "Slumdog Millionaire" reaffirms how deeply Boyle loves making movies and how gifted he is. How lucky for all of us!