Distributed By: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Knowing how much I dislike parting with money, it should come as no surprise to you that I almost will never see a movie without at least knowing something about its plot. That being the case, it should surprise you to hear this – I actually decided to see Slumdog Millionaire based on the rave reviews only…reviews, I might add, that never mentioned anything about the movie’s plot. The people that I knew had seen the movie barely gave me any information about the film…just that it was excellent and I should see it. Other than that, I had to go on the fact that everyone on the radio show, The Morning Zoo, loved the film…and let’s not forget all of the awards the movie won. Armed with only these facts, I checked out Slumdog Millionaire hoping that my instincts weren’t wrong.
Based on the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup, Slumdog Millionaire centers about Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a young man who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of the popular game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Jamal is very close to winning the jackpot when he is accused of cheating and interrogated by the local police. Throughout the interrogation, we learn how Jamal knew the answer to each correctly answered question on the game show, for each answer was directly connected to an important event in his life.
Growing up in the slums of Mumbai, Jamal learned the harsh reality of life at a very young age. Losing their parents to genocide during the Hindu-Muslim riots of 1993, Jamal, his older brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) and a young girl named Latika (Freida Pinto) banded together in an effort to survive. Jamal’s bond with Latika grew stronger as the time passed and Jamal found himself beginning to truly care about the girl. Separated after trying to escape a Fagan-like character, Jamal never forget Latika and continues to look for her over the years. As he tells his tale to his interrogators, we learn that Latika was the reason behind Jamal’s signing up to be a contestant on the game show.
The film does a terrific job in making viewers aware of the harshness of living in the slums of Mumbai. The various hardships that befall Jamal, Salim and Latika are hardships that have been felt by many who live in the region. I’m fairly certain that a good many people never even heard of the area until this movie, but I an equally certain that they will find it hard to forget after having seen Slumdog Millionaire.
Obviously, the story is about survival in the face of adversity, but it is also about a love that survives against all odds. It’s a love that spans the years and resists all attempts at destruction. The love story in Slumdog Millionaire is very believable and the characters are made so appealing to the viewers that we actually root for the love of Jamal and Latika to survive.
It may seem incredible after all Jamal has been through that he should end up as a high-rolling contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, but as fantastic as that may be, it takes nothing away from the story. It is this incredible event that sets up the entire story and thus becomes somewhat insignificant in the face of everything Jamal has been through.
I’m thrilled that I decided to follow my instincts and see this film. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Slumdog Millionaire was every bit the movie everyone was toting it to be. But I must caution movie-goers about one thing: I know that it is customary for some to file out as soon as the credits begin to roll, but if you wait, you’ll witness something that is very much a part of the film and contains a great deal of meaning. Without giving too much away, I would like to say that although you may find this event to be strange at first, if you think about it and analyze it, you will find it very pertinent to the film…an extension of it, if you will. So stay until the screen fades to black and names are all you see scrolling by – you won’t be disappointed.