Something In The Air
A semi-autobiographical drama from director Olivier Assayas set in 1970s Paris
An orphaned Mumbai slum kid tries to change his life by winning TV's 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' in Danny Boyle's multi-Oscar-winning fable
Slumdog Millionaire opens as Jamal Malik (Skins star Dev Patel) is being beaten by Mumbai police for allegedly cheating on hit TV show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? One question away from the ultimate 20 million rupee prize, no one, including slick show host Prem (Anil Kapoor), believes a chai wallah (teaboy) like Jamal could know all the answers. As the tough inspector (Irfan Khan) replays Jamal's appearance on the show, it's revealed that each question corresponds to a specific life lesson from Jamal's tragic past.
Raised in abject poverty in Mumbai's grimmest slum along with older brother Salim, then orphaned by a Hindu mob attack, Jamal and Salim are forced to fend for themselves on the streets through opportunistic petty crime. They pick up a young girl, fellow orphan Latika (Freida Pinto), escape the clutches of a vicious Fagin-like crime boss, lose Latika, and continue their picaresque adventures, one step ahead of the law. As adolescents, however, Salim becomes entranced by a life of crime and Latika's unexpected return sets brother against brother. Will Jamal salvage his girl, his fortune and his life on Millionaire?
Adapted by Full Monty writer Simon Beaufoy from Vikas Swarup's hit novel Q&A, Slumdog is an underdog tale. Beaufoy's Oscar-winning screenplay scampers after Swarup's self-consciously Dickensian storytelling tradition, and is even built around the Millionaire show, as iconic a symbol of Western capitalist entertainment as exists.
Director Danny Boyle and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, both of whom also won Oscars, evidently immersed themselves in India's sensory overload. The film revels in the sub-continent's chaotic beauty and raging colours, from Mumbai shantytowns to Agra's regal Taj Mahal. The thrillingly off-the-cuff digital imagery reflects a nation in a state of explosive flux, looming skyscrapers erupting from wasteland, slum kids turning into overnight millionaires through the kiss of television. The film's uniquely vibrant, headlong 21st century rush is that of the infinite possibilities of modern India itself.
Slumdog's such a crowd-pleaser that some might brand it Boyle's best since Trainspotting. It even echoes a couple of that film's classic set pieces, notably a slum chase reminiscent of Renton and Co's opening Edinburgh dash and a lavatorial incident so stomach-churning (yet hilarious), it makes Trainspotting's infamous toilet scene seem like Ewan McGregor took an Evian bath.
In fact, the likable Boyle has been on great form for some time - 28 Days Later revamped the zombie movie, while Millions is perhaps the best kids film of recent years. No other current British director makes such thrillingly current (all his films are set in either the present or future), kinetic, inherently visual films and proper recognition is long overdue - though, true to form, he's insistent here on crediting co-director Loveleen Tandan, whose major contribution seems to have been unearthing the wonderfully naturalistic kids to play Jamal, Salim and Latika.
A spirited, feelgood underdog fable marinated in modern India's melting pot.
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Director Danny Boyle reflects on the 'fairytale' that was making Slumdog Millionaire
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