Tuesday, June 21, 2011

2008: Slumdog Millionaire

Jamal Malik is doing very well on the Indian version of the quiz show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"  So well, in fact, that officials believe that he must be cheating.  How else could an uneducated 18-year-old from the slums answer such difficult questions?  Through a series of flashbacks, the audience and the police are shown not only how Jamal knows the answers, but also what his life was like and the reason he wanted to go on the show in the first place.

This film is very well done.  Scenes from the present and the past are edited together perfectly.  What the filmmakers decide to show, and when these events are shown, gives a very good idea of what happens in Jamal's life without spoon-feeding it to the audience.  Some things aren't perfectly clear, but you can pretty much always at least infer what's going on.  Life is confusing and messy, and that is certainly portrayed in this film, both by the story itself and by the way it is told.  There are a lot of oblique camera angles, which also add to the feeling of chaos.  Plus, this film has amazing character development.  I would think that it would be very difficult to keep the characters consistent throughout the  movie, especially since the main characters are each played by three different actors, but somehow they manage it.  Jamal is Jamal, whether he's a little kid speaking Hindi, a young teenager speaking broken English, or an 18-year-old answering questions on a TV show.  Jamal is also an extremely likable character, which is another reason I really enjoy this movie.

It might not sound that interesting to watch a film about somebody going on a game show.  But that's not actually what this movie's about.  It's really about what happens to different people when they are put in difficult circumstances.  Jamal and his brother Salim grow up together in the slums, but they turn into extremely different people.  Salim becomes a gangster, while Jamal spends his whole life trying to find a way to live happily ever after with a girl named Latica.  As the film concerns poverty in India, it is inevitably quite depressing, but because Jamal never gives up hope, it's impossible to walk away from this film not smiling.  Although that may have something to do with the Bollywood dance during the credits.

My one major complaint about this movie is that the subtitles when they're speaking Hindi are really difficult to read.  This may seem trivial, but it's very frustrating because a lot of what they say is crucial to understanding the plot.  But all that - and some of the disturbingly depressing subject matter - aside, I think this is definitely one of the better Best Picture Winners.

Following this: The Hurt Locker

No comments:

Post a Comment