Sunday, November 16
Castro Theater, San Francisco
Director: Danny Boyle
Co-Director (India): Loveleen Tandan
Country/Year: UK/USA, 2008
Runtime: 120 minutes
Language: English/Hindi with English subtitles
The jumble and hustle of modern-day India provides the steamy, energetic backdrop to Danny Boyle's electrifying new feature, Slumdog Millionaire. The film is an eloquent and moving account of a boy who attempts to become a millionaire on a television game show, rediscovering the love of his life in the process. Boyle uses this extraordinary premise to paint a kaleidoscopic portrait of a society built around survival of the fittest, where betrayal is commonplace and greed and corruption lie just around every corner.
In a picaresque tale worthy of a Henry Fielding novel, this Tom Jones is Jamal, a poor, bright-eyed youth mischievously getting in and out of scrapes with his even more rambunctious older brother, Salim. In a horrifying turn of events, the two youngsters' lives change in front of their eyes when their mother is viciously killed during a riot. Alone, they turn to the streets, becoming “slumdogs.” A ray of sunshine comes into their lives when they befriend another orphan, the feisty young girl Latika, and soon the three are inseparable. Adventure follows as the trio learns to survive the cutthroat life of contemporary India – but at least they have each other. Or do they?
Years later, Jamal appears on India's version of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Amazingly, he finds himself in the position of winning more and more prize money as the answers to the questions keep tumbling his way. But how can a “slumdog” with no formal education know the answers to these questions? Suspicions are raised, and Jamal quickly learns that the game show will be his biggest life test.
Boyle's film is a cinematic roller-coaster ride. Above all a romance, it is played out in a world where social, economic and political issues are never far away. The young cast is superb, but it is Boyle's dramatic smarts and feel for the heat, sweat and street life of Mumbai that transforms Slumdog Millionaire into a compelling and gripping cinematic experience.
-- Piers Handling