Slumdog Millionaire (2008) Poster

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3/10
Only good if you don't think about it.
james_hawthorne31 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I accept that I saw this film post-hype. It was never going to be the Citizen Kane that people seem to think it is. But cripes, it was fluff! Not only fluff, but cold fluff: while something like Mamma Mia can draw you in with its silliness and generous humour, I felt nothing but boredom at Dev Patel's constant grump. I didn't want him to get the girl.

And, for all the talk about it being a 'love story against all the odds', the odds are so disparate as to be totally random! If you're going to write a fable, at least make your symbols coherent: is he fighting against discrimination because of his background? Is he fighting against people who use him? Or is he just fighting against his brother, who for some unknown reason is a really bad apple? (on that last point, this really annoyed me: i really don't buy his brother! If we agree its a moral fable, then what on earth does he represent?) Another massive problem with the film is the total lack of character development. So Dev Patel wants this girl... er, OK, why is this? It just seems to be a given. Can you imagine them having a happy life after the film? Can you imagine any of the characters doing ANYTHING outside the bubble of this plot? Can you say anything meaningful about the characters in the film that don't revolve around plot necessitudes? No? Well, maybe that's because these characters are about as undeveloped as your average goldfish.

Basically, I accept that people will say that Slumdog isn't a heavyweight film; its a bit of romantic nonsense in an economic climate when we all need cheering up. OK then: watch Forrest Gump or Mamma Mia. Because they're far more warm and generous than this anti-social, individualistic film. The icing on the cake came at the climax of the film, when all the people of Mumbai watch Dev Patel win the show. Where did this community theme come from in a film which is ostensibly about this one kid fighting everyone else? Perhaps Boyle thought the only way to sell a film about India was to make it with lots of anonymous happy smiling people doing a dance. How very dated.
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6/10
Slumdog Millionaire with 8 Oscar nominations? Huh?
NewFreedomRider1 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Last night we went to see what the fuss was all about.

While Slumdog is fairly entertaining, I found the overall package to fall far short of an "instant classic". My main gripe with this film was that the plot mechanisms were very contrived, in many cases incredibly predictable.

By the time we got to the second flashback, the scene was pretty much set. There will be some horrific disaster or injustice; and then, there will be some miraculous turn of events to contrast with the evil. This formula was repeated again and again; I suppose the thinking was that this was an analogue of the Indian experience itself. I thought that it was simply clumsy and self-serving.

Another annoyance was the injection of Western arrogance into the film; for example, the "three musketeers" scene which of course was just a contrivance to set up the dramatic final question. Two Indian children whose mother had just been brutally murdered, who had just seen a man burned to death in front of them, would be prattling on about the characters in an Alexandre Dumas novel? Really? What in the world was this director thinking? Did he really think that anyone could watch this scene with a straight face?

The subplot with Salim as a gangster was quite unbelievable and discontinuous with the rest of the film. This could have been a good concept for a different film, where this plot could have be more fully developed, but it did not fit well in this movie. Another contrivance, and one that did not work well, I thought it was very awkward.

With that being said, there is still enough entertainment value to rate this film 6 stars. It was worth the matinée price that I paid, but I am not certain it would have been worth full admission.

Best Movie of the year? Spare me. That outcome simply shows how meaningless the Oscars have become.
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It is written?
tieman6418 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Jamal, Salim and Latika, three abnormally cute little kids, live in the Dharavi slums of India. Jamal is a dreamer, proud of his signed photograph of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. Salim's a pragmatist. He sells Jamal's picture - the photo epitomizing Jamal's fantasies of upward mobility - for money. Latika sits between them. She's the female trophy who exists to either be corrupted by Salim or saved from the slums by Jamal's undying love.

Directed by Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire" tells a familiar "rags to riches" tale. Its first act consists of several brief anecdotes, Boyle fetishizing the Dharavi slums, portraying poverty as a carnival of colours and soul-deadening action. Shot with the same over-saturation and hand-held work that made the slums of "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener" problematic, Boyle treats poverty as a MTV video.

Of course it's not all fun and games. Mothers die, eyes are gorged out and child traffickers run rampant, but the film glosses over such matters, using them instead for tactical shocks and easy jolts. The reason these scenes, despite their inherent darkness, seem so trite, is because Boyle tries to have it both ways. "Millionaire", regardless of its social probing, is essentially a fantasy. It's a Cinderella story, our heroes rising above the slums by the sheer force of love and destiny, brought together on the set of a television game show, the power of pop culture lifting their dirty bodies from the filth and grime of Dharavi.

We're expected to believe that children are harvested and abused, yet we're also expected to believe in magical happy endings where everything works out. Boyle wants the gravitas of a child watching his mother murdered, but he also wants the expired movie clichés central to a Disney love story.

Toward the end of the film, a gangster cuts Latika's face with a knife. The resultant scar epitomizes "Millionaire". On the surface, we think we're looking at something "real", something "violent". But look closer and see how carefully placed and artfully directed that scar is. It's a single clean cut, perfectly framing the actress's face. It's not an ugly scar. It doesn't protrude or ruin her symmetry. In no way does it obscure her beauty. So while the initial impression is one of shock or even sympathy, the fraud is that it's carefully designed to be pretty. To be easy on the eyes and head. Contrast this with the Indian kids in 2004's "Red Light Kids" or with how the prostitutes are treated in "Unforgiven". It's not pretty when a woman is cut up. Boyle's film is one where he's not being honest about the situation, and the responsibility is on the audience not to think twice.

Worse still is the film's reliance on destiny. What engenders Boyle's happy ending is the underdog's pure heroism, an egotistical lottery mentality, a belief in destiny, and the prodigal brother's heroic martyrdom. Indeed, Salim exists solely to do the dirty work of killing the bad guys so as not to interfere with the moral purity of Jamal. At the same time, it's hard to believe that anything really matters when everything in the film is simply working according to destiny. Apparently it's destined that all the other slum dwellers (who can't get onto a TV game show) continue to live a life of poverty.

The film ends with all of rural India celebrating Jamal's victory as though it were their own triumph. The fact that "one of their own" has become rich elicits an outburst of joy. And this is the film's ideology: anybody can rise out of misery, if they are pure of heart and chosen by fate. Jamal is plucked arbitrarily out of the masses as a symbol. He is a celebration of the culture of the dice, the casino, the lucky ticket.

And so the film ends with a "happily ever after". Our boy and girl embrace before the film erupts into a happy song and dance routine. It's all quite silly. But perhaps Danny Boyle is being ironic, deconstructing the fantasy image and poking fun at Bollywood's avoidance of truth? Or am I watching too much Altman? With this view mind, I gave the film another look. How straight is Boyle playing things?

Consider this: the film travels from the "reality" of poverty to the artificial world of TV sets, Bollywood shenanigans and big money. The narrative then self-destructs, essentially becoming a thoughtless Bollywood dance movie. Brilliant still, the film ends with the line "D: It is written", an allusion to fate, but also implying perhaps that the story is itself fabricated, a screenplay and so profoundly false. Better yet, the entire film is told from the point of view of Jamal, who we know is an imaginative boy and fan of movies. Is it possible that Jamal, like Spacey in "The Usual Suspects", has just narrated a cosy lie to us solely to avoid being punished by the police? After all, Jamal is a known con artist and the plot is too unbelievable, too manufactured, to be true. The characters are too cardboard, too stereotype, too comic book. The love story is too insensible and contrived. Is it possible that Jamal has scammed the quiz program and that the film is a scam on the audience?

But no, Boyle does not seem to go down this route. There's no irony here, no questioning of artificiality, and little inclination that Boyle believes his picture to be anything more than a straight fantasy. A better filmmaker would have probed deeper, undermining the carefully manufactured Bollywood image, but Boyle seems content with his happily ever after.

6/10 – See "Salaam Bombay!", "Los Olividados", "Land of Plenty and "Wendy and Lucy".
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1/10
Shame on you Oscars
greenbeavervideo14 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
After seeing this movie, I think members of the Oscars should be arrested and interrogated for suspicion of fraud. As others have pointed out, this film is part of a continuing trend of the Oscars trying to shove mediocre movies down our throats. It is as though the intentions of this movie were good enough to make it a "great" movie.

First off, this movie asks way too much of its audience as far as suspension of belief. This is fine with a sci-fi or horror movies, but for a highly touted Oscar winner that claims to be a gritty drama portraying an often ignored part of a big society, it really goes overboard. The coincidences that you are asked to accept are just beyond human comprehension. I used to watch the American version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and to suggest that an uneducated homeless guy could win because just about every question is related to something obscure that happened a long time ago in his life, and which he happens to conveniently remember, is just ludicrous. Please, the coincidence of the little kid in God Rama custom was just laughable, and when movie critics decide they hate a movie, this is the kind of stuff they pounce on, but in this case, a clear example of complete amateurism is ignored.

And don't get me started about the TV host character. He blatantly belittles the contestant about being poor, again and again and again, with no subtlety whatsoever, just straight out laughs in his face while millions watch on TV. He is part of a collective that makes taking this film seriously completely impossible.

Somewhere between 20 to 30 minutes into this movie you realize how the rest of the movie is going to go. Those who you think will end up together, do. The characters you expect to die, do. The only thing that kept my interest was the notion that, since this was a critically acclaimed movie and a foreign movie, they would not cop out and do a Hollywood ending. I guess I was wrong. And maybe it's an Indian tradition, but what was the deal with ending the movie with a completely irrelevant dance number??? I know they did something similar in "There's Something About Mary", but that was a comedy!! Can you imagine a dance number at the end of "Crash"?

Another thing that bugged me was the so called love story. It was a big part of the second half of the movie and it just destroyed any sliver of credibility the plot still had at that point. The main character suffers from what I like to call "Hugh Grant Syndrome". This is when a movie gives us a male character who has a nonsensical, and self deprecating, obsession with a woman who obviously doesn't like him and even goes out of her way to hurt him just to show him how much she's not into him, but then the guy, against all logic, persist and eventually wins her. These movies have the audacity to asks us to see these stalker, unhealthy, relationships as "romantic" and "endearing" when any adult with half a brain knows that women like this (or any person for that matter) don't change over night and that the relationship is already doomed. The girl in this movie, except briefly when they were playing around as kids, never showed the same level or type of interest that the guy does through out the last half! She always followed whatever would allow her to survive. The only time she actually seems to want to be with him as much as he does with her is when he has fame and money. This is supposed to be romantic?

I decided to see this movie, despite the obvious red flag that this was hyped by the Oscars, because I wanted to see something different, something that would give me more insight into what I regard as a fascinating culture. In spite of the great cinematography and look of the film, all I got was a bunch of Western stereotypes wrapped in a silly and substandard plot. This was the best movie of 2008?!?! Really?!?! I thought "The Wrestler" was a better movie, and it wasn't even nominated!!!! Only the Hollywood elites don't see the big disconnect between their taste in movies and that of movie fans. In a move that reeks of desperation they are adding more nominees to the Oscars categories in an attempt to keep the ceremonies' ratings from going down the toilet even more. They don't get it, it's not about quantity, it's about quality, or in this case, lack of quality.
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10/10
WOW is right
Jay8 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I also saw this film at to Toronto Film Festival. The audience gave it a well deserved standing ovation. This story is told seamlessly. The revealing look into the Mumbai slum is just one of the beautiful and terrifying story lines. The use of flashbacks to tell the story took you on a journey in time and culture. They used three sets of actors of three different ages to move the story. The use of the youngest actors (actually slum kids from Mumbai) stole the show. These kids were incredible showing both the beauty and the horrors of growing up in Bombay. And that's not to take away from the amazing performances of Freida, Dev, and the actor playing the older Saleem. There performances moved many to tears. See this movie it won't disappoint!
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9/10
The little movie that will wow audiences this year.
Malickfan867 September 2008
There has already been some talk coming from Telluride that this film is set to be this year's 'Juno.' It does have the same distributor and it is set for the same release period, and for anyone who hears this buzz, they will definitely not be disappointed.

During the premiere of the final cut (in the words of director Danny Boyle) at the Toronto International Film Festival, the audience gave the film an incredibly enthusiastic response, and it went on to win the People's Choice Award. Boyle, who is somewhat like a British Richard Linklater for yet again surprising the audience with such diverse subject matter, worked his magic. He transcended genres and created a truly unique and energetic picture.

Just about every aspect of this film deserves merit, and above all it belongs to Boyle, who managed to assemble such a massive achievement. The score by A.R. Rahman, with contributions from M.I.A., perfectly accompanies the action on screen. Still, it is great enough to be listened to on its own. With India as a backdrop, Boyle and his cinematographer have composed some remarkable images. The acting is roundly impressive, especially coming from the younger cast, almost all of which has never acted before.

The film begins as Jamal (Skins' Dev Patel) is under interrogation by Mumbai police for cheating on India's version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, being only one question away from winning it all. As the inspector says, even doctors and lawyers cannot come close to the 20m rupee prize, and so Jamal, having grown up on the streets of Mumbai, cannot possibly know these things. As Jamal tries to avoid further torture, he begins to explain to the police how he knew each of the answers. Flashbacks present Jamal's boyhood and explain how he got to the show.

At the centre of his journey is his brother, Salim, and a girl, Latika, who is left a homeless orphan after an attack that took Jamal's mother as well. After running from a man who exploits the trio for labour, Jamal replays the incident when Latika left his life when she was unable to catch a moving train. His uncertainty of her fate on the streets of Mumbai and his intense desire to see his first and only love again lead him to the interrogation room where the film began.

Like 'Juno,' Slumdog Millionaire is by genre a comedic drama, but it becomes much more. The film asks questions about fate, righteousness, greed, and even urban sprawl. Above all, however, it asks about love in the face of the most dire obstacles, and if it can truly prosper. Jamal's story is a tragic and unfortunate one, but as seen through his eyes, it is still beautiful. The vast colour palate of India overwhelm any negative feelings, and Jamal's hope of finding and being with Latika overwhelm despair. For Jamal, 20m rupees isn't his prize. It would be nearly impossible for there to be a better picture this year.
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1/10
Will someone say "The king is naked!" please?
yogsottoth28 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Because he's full frontal nude! This was not a good movie. Simple as that.

Starting from the first scene, my whole enthusiasm was drained off when I saw the cops torturing a guy for doing good in a competition. My mind was boggled. Has there ever been a more ludicrous, more absurd opening in the history of cinema? I mean who shows their script utterly sucks in the very first moments? Even bad action movies don't do that. It felt like a punch. (You thought it was gonna be good because of all those Oscars, eh? Here you go! POW!)

The following sequences where we witness our characters' past were far from being sincere, real, or authentic. I can't believe people compare this to City of God. It felt so... amateurish. Danny Boyle has totally lost his edge. There was nothing impressive. I don't know how to quite put it right, but there was this "We're so happy to be making this film!" feeling all over the movie and it especially didn't work well for the supposed dramatic moments. They were not real, not new, not original. A little bit of Oliver Twist, and some bad humor. Nothing memorable.

And the show... Ah, the show... A vulgar, cheating, lying, conniving bully of a TV show host? Where do they find these ideas? You can't just suspect a competitor of cheating and send him off to be electrocuted! In a place where a TV show like that is being made, these kinda stuff just cannot happen. This is a fact. Nobody can say anything to make it okay. That was the one most stupid character idea ever to be realized on screen.

And they even told about their suspicions to the press without so much as trying to frame him with some lie like they found something on him. How disreputable is that for the show? And is it so incomprehensible to think that maybe he just knew the answers? "Doctors, professors can't go where he went." my a**!!! As if the questions were prepared for geniuses... The first half was all about India and they even had questions with humorous answers that -like the cop said- a 5 year old could answer. This was *very cleverly* written to legitimize people's suspicions of the cheating thing but instead it made the lead guy look like a borderline idiot. And didn't the host think that maybe the guy could make a complaint, or at least talk to the press? Was he gonna cover it up with his strong ties to the police and threaten the media? He's a TV personality for god's sake! Not a made man! Oh god, it was so absurd.

And has nobody warned the writer about the "perfect chronology between the events in the guys life and the contents of the questions" angle was way too off? Too forced? You gotta be a bit more subtle when you're dealing with stuff like destiny since you're trying to make a real movie. Either go crazy and say "In my movie's universe these things are normal." like Woody Allen does, or make it a bit more realistic and reasonable like it was in the movie Crash. This was just lame, childish, BAD writing. Oh and the lead character must have had such a brain, they should kill the guy and study it. He remembers everything! If our brains stored information like that... Man, I don't even what would happen!

And the ending. The *perfectly* thought out ending where the easiest question in the world comes as the last question, just to tie it all up with a not-so-meaningful memory from his childhood. So cheap. The chaotic brother who just can't decide what to be, suddenly goes paladin and he, very quickly, brings a solution to the girl's problems and sets her free, and even handles the communication problem between the lovers just so that they can have the conclusion talk that will wrap the movie up. So cheap. And he kills the boss who, very conveniently, enters the room first. (come on, man... why would a crime boss enter a room like a deer when he knows there's something suspicious going on?) And the third act is done! Writing is that easy guys. And you can even get an Oscar for it.

David Fincher must have been so annoyed... When you can't even trust the Academy, what's the point of the whole awards concept?

Please let's stop this craze of cheering for bad movies just because of their hype! First the Dark Knight and now this. Teenagers go ape**** over horrific stuff like Twilight. What is going on? I don't think I can handle another one.
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10/10
One of the best films of the year
Vincent Cadena5 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Danny Boyle has been a favorite of mine since I saw Shallow Grave, since then he's gone on to make three masterpieces(Trainspotting,28 Days Later and Millions), a near perfect film(Sunshine) a guilty pleasure(The Beach) and a total miss(A Life Less Ordinary). Slumdog Millionaire comes out of nowhere and it could very well be his best film and one of the best films of the decade. Visually like Boyles previous work it's stunning, Apocalypse Now and City of God come to mind and there are dutch angles galore. The raw style mixed with the amazing locations make this film one of the most cinematic experiences you'll ever see. The Sound is perfect, I haven't heard audio like this in a while. This film needs a Sound Oscar nomination, it sounds that good. I went into seeing this knowing very little about it and the person I took with me didn't know anything about it, so I'll just say it's about a young man that goes on Indias Who Wants to be a Millionaire, it's a very unconventional film where they tell the story of his life in flashbacks while he plays the game. It's funny, sad, thrilling, basically a very enjoyable film that deserves numerous Oscar nominations. Also the lead actress is one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen, if she isn't a huge star after this I'd be extremely surprised. If the academy doesn't honor this film with numerous nominations it will be a shame but this film will be studied in 20 years and whoever sees this will love it, so even if it doesn't get a single nomination it won't matter. Don't miss this film, it's perfect!
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4/10
unrealistic & over-rated
sambitprem27 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Scenes of poverty and squalour may appear romantic to Westerners and to our snooty elite but for ordinary Indians they are nothing new. They are an everyday reality. However, one wonders what sort of mind can find such images aesthetically pleasing. Party-hopping socialites (for example, Shobhaa De after all her bombast of "enough is enough" after the Mumbai attack, went and watched a pirated copy!) who are distanced from such reality may find this film an "eye-opener" but for us it IS just poverty-porn. Leaving that aside, I have eight other objections to the film. 1) The director seems to RELISH showing violence. Some of it (like the police-torture) is quite needless. And why was the boy arrested in the first place? On what charge? Was it realistic? 2) How can a boy growing up in slums speak such accented English? Even if one assumes that the language he actually uses to communicate with the game-show host and the police officer is Hindi (granting the director the creative license to use a language better suited for international audiences), there are 2 instances where it is stretched too far: (a) when the boy becomes a 'guide' for foreign tourists at the Taj Mahal & (b) when he becomes a substitute-operator at the call-centre. 3) When the boy uses his 'lifeline' during the game-show, his friend discovers that she has forgotten her mobile and has to run back for it. This is plain Bollywood masala! Did the director HAVE to make it so melodramatic? 4) How did the boy know who invented the revolver just by watching his brother use it? How does his friend know about Benjamin Franklin? 5) "Darshan Do Ghanshyam" is NOT written by Surdas. It is written by Gopal Singh Nepali for the movie Narsi Bhagat (1957). This song is also credited as traditional and originally written by 15th century poet Narsi Mehta, whose life that film is based on. 6) After winning the game-show, the boy sits on the railway platform and nobody recognizes him! Considering the popularity of the show, is that realistic? 7) Two glaring omissions: To qualify for the show one has to answer several GK questions over phone or Internet. Even after making it to the show, a contestant can reach the hot-seat, only after "fastest finger first". All this is conveniently forgotten in the film. 8) And of course the greatest flaw in the storyline: programmes like 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' and 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' are NOT telecast live. As a result the entire structure of the film becomes unrealistic. For a film that boasts of being realistic such a flaw cannot be overlooked.

Anyone else wants to say this is a g-r-e-a-t film despite all these flaws?
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1/10
D - Highly Overrated. Final Answer. Where's my check?
Egg_MacGuffin15 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Here's yet another extremely overrated film from 2008 catered specifically to awards and little else. Color me unimpressed.

While it's not as dire as Benjamin Button or as erroneous as The Dark Knight, Slumdog is certainly not a good film. It's not technically bad, either. It simply exists. It's a movie you watch rather than experience.

I am literally in a state of shock these days at all the films masquerading as high-class or even art when they are riddled with so many *fundamental* mistakes. Screen writing 101...they get that stuff wrong! Not the hard stuff, the simple stuff. How? I am baffled.

Slumdog's story relies damn near entirely on coincidence, which is a hugely detrimental factor when attempting to create audience sympathy. I didn't feel for the kid on the show. I wasn't given a reason to. If that were me on that show, I would have never been asked questions that I just so happened to know the answers to by chance. This kid just so happens to know the answer to the questions he is asked and little else. He lucked out! I did not sympathize with him, I envied him! I simply could not put myself in that situation due to it's complete insanity and lack of realism.

The search for the girl is introduced rather late, and before then, there isn't much to root for in this story. So essentially, you can begin watching this film at that point and completely understand the plot and miss nothing of importance.

The fact that the kid had one question left was not properly communicated to the audience, which diluted the suspense of the situation.

The fragmented nature of the story doesn't make it easy to understand the narrative, even when the concept alone creates the plot beats for you. This film seems to go out of it's way to make things extra-complex, as though it's trying to cover up something that's lacking...

Another thing that jumped out and bothered me...there are plenty of scenes that simply have nothing to do with the kid on the game show...or scenes that take far too long to get to the necessary bits of info that we need. It plods around for quite some time as if it's trying to make up for something that's lacking...

I also do not enjoy the new-age, pointlessly over-stylistic directing style employed here. It was distracting, perhaps to cover up something that's lacking...

When something, *anything*, is not right, you look at the fundamentals. This is true in everything from football to film-making. Without knowing, or by simply ignoring the fundamentals, you end up with horrendously flawed films such as this, The Dark Knight and Benjamin Button. And what's really sad is that these are the most highly-praised films of last year.

When did the standards drop so low? Did I miss a meeting? And can I still vote?
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