Reviews - Slumdog Millionaire
Reviewed By John Stakes
Danny Boyle’s rags to riches tale of Jamal’s rise from the slums of Mumbai is reflected in the film’s own background story as it developed from probable DVD fodder to phenomenal world-wide screen success in little more time it seems than it took Jamal to complete his time in the “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” hot-seat.
Three months before its scheduled cinema release date Warner, who held 50% of the film’s distribution rights (along with Film4, Pathé, and Celador the owners of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”) decided to shut down its independent pictures division and sell its rights to Fox Searchlight whose parent company owned The New York Times. Boyle was told his film would go straight to DVD. However, the film was entered in the Toronto Film Festival and won the Audience Award. The rest is history. The film appears in the Club’s programme precisely because it was selected at a time when it was thought the film would at best obtain a limited release so the committee is to be congratulated on its inspired choice. By the time the film swept the Oscars it had already returned £21M on its £8.7M outlay.
The success of Danny Boyle’s film can be attributed to the blending of several factors starting with a universally appealing love story peopled with instantly identifiable characters who faithfully serve the heavily structured but ingenious if somewhat implausible plot. These ingredients alone would probably have ensured a passable movie, but what distinguishes this film and lifts it well above the crowd is the stunning cinematography and art direction supervised by the inspired choice of Danny Boyle as director, and the infectious natural acting by the young cast drawn from the back streets of Mumbai.
The film could be described as a distillation of many of the elements of Boyle’s screen successes to date as we had a grittier depiction of Mumbai shanty and street life than expected echoing his earlier work on Trainspotting alongside many aspects of his more recent film about children and money, the highly entertaining Millions. The pacing, cutting, editing and camera-work were outstanding throughout combined with breathtaking cinematography which captured the best and worst of Mumbai city life and elsewhere. Simon (The Full Monty) Beaufort’s script was sharp, telling, and , at times, hilarious, particularly when some lesser known ”facts” about the Taj Mahal were revealed.
Throughout, Boyle and the plot shamelessly but enjoyably manipulated the audience, and for once the obvious product placement (about which this reviewer has bleated on occasions) served the plot and became the centre-piece of the film’s structure.
The film has also been described as “Bollywood’s coming of age” which may well be true (it did cause enough controversy to stimulate litigation) although its makers could not resist the temptation to include a nod to Bollywood in the film’s closing credit sequence, a completely irrelevant but nonetheless highly enjoyable cheesy song and dance routine on the station platform.
Last Sunday’s audience had no difficulty in voting Boyle’s film amongst the best of the season, and, like Jamal, perhaps the film was “destined” to triumph and conquer. Nevertheless it does raise serious questions about the future of British film funding and just how many films worthy of cinema release are “destined” to remain gathering dust on some long forgotten shelf.
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