Slumming for answers: You are reading this movie review because:
(A) You like me
(B) I encouraged you to
(C) It is written
(D) You have nothing better to do for five minutes
And thus begins the new film Slumdog Millionaire, cleverly crafted by maverick British director Danny Boyle (Millions, 28 Days Later, Trainspotting).
First off, the film is not an original idea which I was disheartened to discover. No, it's based on a novel titled Q&A by Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup. Having said that, the movie is still a must see if for no other reason than it's just the positive and uplifting push that India needs right now after the three days of terror that Mumbai experienced in late November; a terror that crippled the city and ended with some resignations by some government officials.
The film cuts between the past and present of street beggar Jamal Malik. When we first see Jamal, he is being interrogated and tortured by the police because they suspect him of cheating on the TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?). Despite the torture, Jamal continues to profess his innocence and that he made it to the final question on the show by actually knowing the answers.
From there, we actually get to see how he knew each of the answers that he was presented with on the show. We see him and his older brother Salim and how they learn to survive on the streets after the brutal death of their mother. Afterwards, one of the city's head gangsters grooms Salim to join his operation in which the brothers would beg for money. Along the way, the brothers also meet orphan Latika who proves to be the love of Jamal's life. He never stops searching for Latika no matter how many times they are separated.
The film moves along at a wonderfully brisk pace and we see each step of the way how the brothers and Latika survive the harsh streets. The past continually brings us back to the present and the next question on the game show and we clearly see how Jamal knew the answer; no matter how difficult the questions become. Fans of the show know that as the contestant racks up the money, the answers to the questions prove more and more elusive.
When Jamal does finally make it to the final question which is worth 20 million rupees, we discover that the slick host is the biggest skeptic as to how Jamal knows all the answers. The host is played by Hindi actor and producer Anil Kapoor; a better looking and suaver version of Regis Philbin. All of the actors in the film believably portray their characters; thus making the film even more engaging.
The end is touching as the whole city is brought together by an unlikely "hero" on a guilty pleasure game show.
This film has been called the Juno or Little Miss Sunshine of the year and I will be surprised if it doesn't go all the way and amass some Oscar nods. Whether it will win the big prize remains up in the air but I will say this: Considering the other movies that are up for nominations for Golden Globes (a good precursor to Oscar nods) Slumdog Millionaire has possibly a better chance of winning Best Picture than Juno or Little Miss Sunshine could have dreamed about.
Bags of popcorn (out of 5): 5
Oscar Nominations Predictions: