Slumdog Millionaire

If I came to Frost/Nixon with a bit of baggage, you wanna see the full set of matching Louis Vuitton luggage I had with me when I went see Slumdog Millionaire. I had difficulty getting over a sneaking sense of cheap holidays in other peoples’ misery before I’d even come across the various accusations of exploitation of Mumbai‘s people and slums and, perhaps most alarmingly, of the child actors in the film. And, tbh, the filmmakers’ denial of the latter smacked of a certain patronising cultural imperialism (albeit dressed up as do-gooding).

Yup, my liberal knee-jerk was going right off the liberal-knee-jerk-ometer. I even consulted my street worker (stop that at the back) mate, who went on a fact finding trip there a year or so back, as to his opinion. (“That kid would be straight back onto the street”.) Kermode‘s continued insistance that it was a fable (leading to great debate as to whether it was, or a parable) began to kinda nudge me towards going to see it.

Well Mark; it’s a fairytale. Y’know? Once upon a time in a land far, far away? And, I suppose the source material (novel Q&A) sets it there, not some European conceit.

The asian bloke from Skins (as he will no longer be known), Dev Patel is Jamal, the slumdog of the title, who is – on the Indian Who Want’s To Be A Millionaire. We join him being grilled (nearly literally) by the local police, who believe him to be cheating. I’ll say no more. [Extricated rant on the amount of plot spoilers about these days. See The Reader. But, TBH, I don’t think they really detract from this.]

This central contruct was what got me the most: What a simply beautiful dramatic device. You have someone being asked a pile of questions, flashback to where they gleaned that knowledge. See? The University of Life, School of Hard Knocks etc. I don’t think I’ve been taken with the structure of a movie so much since I walked out of The Usual Suspects and stopped dead in my tracks realising none of it actually happened. And, it’s through this that we follow Jamal and his brother in their brutal journey through the world of the slumdog.

I don’t know how Danny Boyle managed it, but from the off I was gripped. No, literally. I had a paplable tightening of the stomach. Despite knowing he’s going to end up on the telly, I still found myself on the edge fo my seat as to what was going to happen to these kids next.

It looks fantastic (hmmm…oh, the local colour!). Boyle’s camera being as well suited to running round the backstreets and shanties of Bombay (as it is for half the film) to MIA as it is juddering around Edinburgh New Town to Leftfield. It’s a definite recognisable style. And, jolly exciting it is too. (Raising the question what went wrong with Sunshine)

This being a film made in the last decade it is, of course, too long. As Jamal gets closer to his telly appearance, it seems to drag a bit. It’s as if they feel they need to give as much time to this period as they do the rest of his life. It’s not needed. This began to disengage my involvement with proceedings. As we know what the outcome of this is going to be (it’s in the bleedin’ title, nevermind the poster), it began to actually drag. They could’ve tightened up this end of the film quite a bit. Also, if I’m honest, they could’ve done without most of the stuff with the police questioning. Why bother giving him the aide memoir twice?

The Bollywood dance number at the end is great fun.


Written by Tony Kiernan

17 February 2009 at 9:10 pm

Posted in Film

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