Hey again. I’ve written a couple reviews for your site, the most recent one being last month’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” I just got back from a screening of Danny Boyle’s new film “Slumdog Millionaire.” It screened at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Westchester, NY and there was a Q/A session after the movie with Danny Boyle, the star of the film Dev Patel, and Janet Maslin of the New York Times. The last two times I’ve written in a review I’ve been called a “plant,” so hopefully this review will back up the fact that I am not a plant. Danny Boyle is a very ambitious filmmaker. It seems like with every film he makes he crosses another genre. “Sunshine,” “28 Days Later,” “Trainspotting,” “Millions,” they all had something different in them. Whether it was horror, sci-fi, love, underdogs, each movie he’s made seemed to cross into a different genre. And what’s great about him is that he can pull it off. Many directors can only do one genre, very good/great directors can do multiple genres, and Boyle here proves again that he’s at the very least a very good director. “Slumdog Millionaire” is based on a book called Q/A. The script was written by Simon Beaufoy (“The Full Monty”). The movie tells the story of how impoverished teen, or slumdog as they’re called, Jamal is at this one point in his life. And that point happens to be one question away from 20,000,000 Rupees on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” the Indian version. The movie opens up with that and then quickly cuts to him being interrogated by the police trying to get him to confess that he is a cheater. The rest of the movie tells the story of how he knew every answer to the questions that were given to him by flashing back to his childhood and how he grew up. We eventually find out he is only on the game show for one reason, and that is to find his childhood love Latika, who is a big fan of the show, as is almost everyone else in India. For just about every question he was asked, the answer had come to him in his life at some point. Whether it was knowing a famous actor, the inventor of the revolver, or who the Three Musketeers were, he had already known almost every single answer. The way the movie seamlessly flows in and out of the present and the past is what really makes this work. The writing and especially editing were very, very good, and without either of those being at the level they were this movie would’ve been a “never was” as opposed to the possible break-out film of 2008. I really believe this movie could go the way of “Juno,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Sideways” before it, and be the art film break out of the year and be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. The soundtrack was such a perfect complement to the film, even incorporating MIA’s “Paper Planes” in the film, big surprise but it fit very nicely. Most of it was scored by an Indian composer, who I don’t know the name of, but Boyle spoke very highly of and said is extremely popular in India. The name of the movie and even description of the movie will surely turn people off from seeing this, which is unfortunate because I believe it will be talked about a lot during the coming Awards season. I don’t want to sound too pushy, or “plant”-like, but this movie really is very good. The love story aspect, about your destiny, about it all being written, about overcoming all the odds, it’s just a movie that I really believe is a very good film and I strongly urge you to check it out if you feel like it. -The Amber Spyglass
Last night I was lucky to attend a screening of Slumdog Millionaire at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, New York. In attendance was director Danny Boyle, star Dev Patel, and NY Times critic Janet Maslin, who led a discussion/Q & A session after the film. I've been a huge fan of Boyle's movies from the time I received a VHS screener of Shallow Grave at the video store I worked in throughout high school and college (long gone, damn you, Blockbuster). Since then I've seen all his films in theaters and, with a few exceptions (The Beach and much of A Life Less Ordinary), have enjoyed them all. By now I'm guessing the general premise is familiar to most people, so I won't go into too much detail. The film begins just after Jamal Malik, an orphan from the slums of India, has advanced to the final question on the Hindi version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. As the crowd explodes, the scene freezes and the audience is provided a Millionaire-style question: whether Jamal won because: A) he is lucky B) he is a genius C) he cheated D) it is written. We then cut to scenes of Jamal being tortured by the local authorities, who suspect he has found a way to cheat, despite the show's rigid monitoring of its contestants. For the rest of the film, Jamal explains to the chief inspector (the actor played the father in The Namesake) how it was possible for him to know the answers to such difficult questions (in one of the film's cleverer moves, the questions won't seem particularly hard to Western audiences). To do so, Jamal must tell his life's story, as evey one of the answers can be traced back to a key event in his life. The manner in which his story unfolds is pretty remarkable; although most of the story is essentially one big flashback, it never feels like one. Distant past, recent past and present play off of one another almost seamlessly, echoing one another in ways that are humorous, surprising and, on a few occasions, absolutely devastating. Okay, cutting to the chase, I think that this is Boyle's best film by an enormous margin and one that deserves to find a huge audience. People will respond strongly to Slumdog Millionaire as both a love story and the ultimate rags-to-riches tale. Roughly a quarter of the film is in Hindi, but even those people who claim they hate subtitled films would probably love this if they gave it the chance. What I was most thankful for, though, is that the most horrific aspects of Jamal's childhood have not been softened in order to make the film an easier one for audiences to sit through. Many people will compare the first half Slumdog to City of God. Visually they have a lot in common, including dizzying, vibrant use of color and ever-roaming camerawork. Having fully transported us to a world we've never seen, neither film allows us to look away when we most want to. Without showing us the absolute worst that Jamal must endure, his rewards would have been nowhere near as uplifiting as they ultimately are. Personally, I liked the way that Slumdog Millionaire incorporated so many familiar elements of Boyle's past films (in the post-movie discussion he claimed this was not intentional, an only occured to him as he began to marked the film). Like Millions, the film relies heavily on a child's perspective and lets religion influence a major character's course of action (in this case, Jamal's brother, a hitman's assistant with a conscience). The crowd scenes in the streets of Mumbai called to mind the opening scenes of The Beach, and as in most of Boyle's films, blaring pop music is dominant in key scenes (a few of which look to have been edited to the music on the soundtrack). Oh yeah, there's also an early flashback to Jamal's childhood that makes Ewan McGregor's climbing into a toilet bowl seem downright sanitary. I'm really looking forward to seeing this one again. NotaryDPO
Oct. 26, 2008, 11:22 p.m. CST
I kind of don't like these "how did we arrive here" movies. They seem to have this built in "artsy-ness" to them that appeals to filmmakers who have told too many stories in a traditional narrative. But as far as I'm concerned, if we already know where he gets to, why do we want to know anything that happens before then? Just start us at the beginning and go forward. -- I do like Boyle as a filmmaker though. I hate druggie flicks but Trainspotting was a masterpiece. And I still contend that The Beach is one of the best first halves of a movie ever made. I heard they begged Boyle to make the second half more about the love story but he refused - instead creating that weird disjointed mess of a second half that completely betrayed everything he set up. Too bad. It would've been better had he taken the suggestion. Millions fell in love with itself a little too much and was ultimately a disappointment. Sunshine somehow managed to have an even more miscalculated second half than The Beach. Just tell a fucking story dude. Stop trying to create some Kubrickian "ooh, this could mean so many different things" ending. Tell your fucking story. -- Great filmmaker. Doesn't completely understand story though.
Oct. 27, 2008, 12:08 a.m. CST
He's always done interesting work and even a perceived failure is way better than most. I'm in.
Oct. 27, 2008, 12:23 a.m. CST
He's the only director around to consistently tackle a new story or genre each movie and still make wonderfully creative work. I'll see anything of his, and I have loved pretty much everything he's done so far.
Oct. 27, 2008, 12:28 a.m. CST
who is quite literally a musical genius. he's also one of the biggest selling musicians of all time, but no one in america has heard of him.<p>man, if ScoreKeeper could score (no pun intended) an interview with him, it would be glorious. he's really amazing.
Oct. 27, 2008, 12:31 a.m. CST
So you expect Simon Beaufoy to rewrite a book (Q & A) that specifically set it's story up as a flashback telling the reader how he got where he was today, by using the mystery of how he knows the answers as a starting point, just because you think it's "arty filmmaking"? Anyway...
Oct. 27, 2008, 1:50 a.m. CST
You might remember Mr. Rahman's music from the opening song of The Inside Man. Yes, he's a legend in India.
Oct. 27, 2008, 2:37 a.m. CST
This is another topic but I don't think any book should be made into a movie. They're different mediums and not meant to be adapted from one to the other. They're made because it's easier for producers to sell pre-existing work. But when's the last time you heard someone say, "The movie was better than the book." Once? That's because books weren't meant to be told in a visual medium. Sure one hits every once in awhile because there's so damn many. So my answer would be, either don't adapt it in the first place or change it drastically into traditional screenplay structure.
Oct. 27, 2008, 2:44 a.m. CST
Dear oh dear, that's a very weak riposte and I suspect you know it. If you got it wrong i.e. the book was written that way and it was not the case of the filmmaker being artsy for the sake it, admit it instead of trying to move the goalposts.
Oct. 27, 2008, 3:12 a.m. CST
I comment rarely these days, but fuck he is good.
Oct. 27, 2008, 5:29 a.m. CST
Not sell outs, not Gloss merchants just good, honest filmakers with something to say! making movies that last the test of time.
Oct. 27, 2008, 9:19 a.m. CST
by half vader
Telling Boyle he doesn't understand story (and by implication that you do), meanwhile spouting ridiculous stuff like "if we already know where he gets to, why do we want to know anything that happens before then?" <p> I guess you didn't bother with Lawrence of Arabia or Dr. Zhivago then. The point of all those 'flashback' movies is that we stay invested in the characters because they're engaging and we don't WANT the ship to sink, plane to crash, bike to smash, heart attack to... The device is an inherent challenge that the material be compelling DESPITE knowing the resolution. Jesus... <p> And as for the adaptation manifesto... oh dear. You sound like a 13 year old who thinks they're privy to some great insight. And nice way to succinctly discount the entire history of illustrated prose, comics, the genres of sci-fi, fantasy and so-on. You great twat!
Oct. 27, 2008, 11:24 a.m. CST
by Col. Tigh-Fighter
Boyle consistantly pushes the envelope with everything he does. Good for him. I wish more filmmakers would have the balls to try something new.
Oct. 27, 2008, 1:17 p.m. CST
Most of Boyles movies do and it's a damn shame.
Oct. 27, 2008, 3:42 p.m. CST
Geraldbeans just has an opinion, it's not like his humpin' your mom. Also give him credit for not saying "First". Also, they torture game show cheaters in India! WTF! They are serious about their game shows.
Oct. 27, 2008, 4:26 p.m. CST
I read this whilst in NYC recently, someone had left it at the hostel. I remember enjoying it a lot but I also remember finding it very homophobic... several gay characters are introduced and then revealed to be perverted paedophiles... Hope they didn't keep this in the movie.
Oct. 27, 2008, 8:33 p.m. CST
by half vader
Sorry Geraldbeans, you may have opened your mouth without thinking, but at least you're not a "first" poster. <p> And Johnny, my rants are nothing compared to most. Where's Dannyglover's? He knows how to spew some bile!!
Oct. 27, 2008, 10:25 p.m. CST
I saw it at TIFF, and I'm seeing another preview screening on Wednesday. To address things, it does not collapse in the third act, the story is indeed structured according to traditional screenplay structure, unless you want to discount Citizen Kane and Double Indemnity and several dozen other classical Hollywood movies that aren't told sequentially as well, adapting books is fine, I don't recall any pedophiles who were particularly singled out for being homosexuals, it's all good. I know. PLANT, right?
Oct. 28, 2008, 3:14 p.m. CST
I actually agreed with you. The "how they got to this point" plot can be interesting and deceptive. "A Perfect World" being an example.
Jan. 18, 2009, 4:24 p.m. CST
by Drunken Rage
Yeah. It's a damn good movie.