I scanned a lot of news daily, and movie news are just happened to be one of them. Therefore, when I quick scanned news about “Slumdog Millionaire”, my initial thought was that the film was yet another one of those underdog drama about one most unlikely hero who was determined enough to beat the odds facing insurmountable challenge. Picture this, if you like. He was nobody, raised in a slum, somehow got admitted to “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, and won the grand prize. Thus, with that frame thought of mind, I pictured that the film was all about this kid, going through training, assiduously studying, probably up to a point where he would tries to memorize the whole Wikipedia – while “Eyes of the Tiger” playing in the background – and then, at the climax, there he was, sitting on the hot seat answering the final question that changed his life. Posters, chunk of news – though I never saw its trailers expensive bandwidth here – had told me all that, and I had accepting it for a fact.
It turns out that I was only half right. Rather than serves as the final purpose as my initial frame-of-thought requires, the-sitting-on-the-hot-seat-for-a-final-answer serves as both the beginning and the end as it wrapped itself up, biting its own tail.
Jamal Malik is in a once in a lifetime hell ride. He has surprised everybody, exceeds expectation of many in this little TV-quiz called “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” But the local authorities doesn’t really bought his capability and luck. Given that he has no formal education background, homeless and living in the street for most of his life, no family safe that of his brother, they had decided that Jamal must be cheated. Thus, the film begins. Jamal was bound, interrogated by the police, beaten, and electrocuted (which unfairly gained it an R rating). They only want him to answer one simple question. “How did you answer the questions? How did you cheated?” To which Jamal answers on his brink of unconsciousness after being electrocuted, “Because I know the answer”
If anything, in a simple manner of speaking, this is more like a semi-bioautograph of Jamal Malik. We’re bought back to his childhood experiences that had giving him strong impressions to last a lifetime and just so happen what he had experienced translated well in answering the quiz’ questions. For instance, when the police had asked how come he was able to answer the question of “Who was the face in one hundred American dollars bill?”, we see that Jamal told the part of his early life where he was involved with one hundred American dollars bill and therefore he was able to answer the question, and so on and so forth. This remembrance of his is what makes this film qualifiable as a solid Drama and probably earned it a spot in the next Academy Awards nomination after taking home the Best Drama for last night Golden Globe Awards 2009.
Sets in India, this film works because, well, it’s India, and it draws you in. It provides a whole new perspective to what usually categorized as an “underdog” film. The film is uplifting toward the end, and the character Jamal Malik was so likeable to paid attention to. But, in my opinion, the true stars from this film are its child actors. They’re so raw, so natural, that I had suspicions that they really are a real street thugs. Ironically, they’re so good that they’re imbalanced the whole film as when the film finally shifts its full attention to grown-up Jamal, I had barely able to sit still with a full attention intact, if only for a short while. Added to that, at two hours plus, I’d wager that the more impatient audiences would felt a little bit bored.
One more thing. Danny Boyle won Best Director from this film. But, I really think that he should share the credit with his Indian co-director (and he did). I could really felt the Indian-vibe leaking out from this film. And oh, of course, true to Indian films, this one also has a mass-sing-and-dance routine albeit brief.
My rating: *** / **** – Superb child actors – given that I don’t usually favor child actors, this is a huge plus from me – but a bit dragging toward the end. Especially love the first two-third of this film.
Afterthought: My thought on it winning Best Drama at Golden Globe Awards 2009? Well, not undeserved, but I’d still go with “Benjamin Button” And I thought that the final question was too easy. Any bookworm should know the answer without thinking.