james debate
james debate

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Simon Beaufoy
Starring Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan
Release date(s) 26th December US, 9th January UK
Running time 120 minutes

Slumdog Millionaire Film

Whilst he has long been one of the more under-appreciated film makers in the business, Danny Boyle is well known among connoisseurs of cinema, having made cult classics such as Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and the Beach, each of which was a master class in direction (the first half of the Beach anyway).

Despite this, Slumdog Millionaire almost passed me by unnoticed when it was released, with such little hype being made about it in the months building up to the film, unlike nearly all of its peers in this year's awards season. However as soon as I found out about it (just before New Years) I made sure to go see it as soon as possible, and I can safely say it was worth my time.

Boyle brings his distinctly kinetic and stylized directing to India this time for what can only be described as a modern fairy tale. Jamal (Dev Patel) is a formerly impoverished street child who has made it to the final question of the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. As no one living in India's strict caste system can believe that such an uneducated 'slumdog' could know so much, he has been accused of cheating and is being interrogated by the police, to whom he proceeds to recount the story of his experiences that have led to this moment.

What follows is an exhilarating celebration of life as we follow the fates of two young children on the streets of Mumbai, torn between the exuberant innocence of unsupervised freedom and the harsh reality of the limited world they grow up in. Bullies and gangsters are stood up to, life lessons are learned, and a sweet childhood love story develops across the years as we watch these lives unfold in front of us.

The acting is superb, particularly from the young children playing Jamal and his brother Salim, as well as the smarmy and sneaky tv show host played by Anil Kapoor that makes you wonder if Chris Tarrant is really as nice as he seems. But what really makes it work is the clever and touching screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, and, as I have already mentioned, the slick and beautiful direction of Danny Boyle.

This film puts doubt in my mind over my earlier claims that Frost/Nixon was the best film of the past 12 months, this might well top it. And if top Brit Danny Boyle doesn't get the oscar for best director this year (having just won the golden globe for the same honour) it will be a travesty.

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