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Review: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

A truly remarkable film that takes its audience on a journey through life.

This is yet another film that I incidentally caught while waiting in the doctor’s office and after seeing it I have to give my doctor praise for his (sometimes) great taste in film.  I had been meaning to watch Slumdog Millionaire for a long time, but never got around to it despite the fact that so many people had recommended it to me.  Now that I have seen it, I would recommend it to pretty much anyone.  This movie has so many great elements in it that few will consider it anything less than brilliant.

This movie is a British production, but it follows the story of Indian characters living in India.  It starts out with the main character, Jamal, being interrogated by the police.  As it turns out he has just set a record of success on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and they suspect him of cheating.  Interrogations in India seem to be a little harsher than they are in the U.S., however, involving electric shock and other forms of torture.

From there, Jamal relates his life to the police, explaining how he came across the answers to all the questions simply by existing and living the unique life that he did.  The movie is structured by the questions from the show.  We see Jamal being asked a question and then the film takes us backwards in time to show Jamal as he learns the answer.  He starts out as a young child and progresses to the film’s present.

Watching Jamal take his journey and the people who join him during parts of it is the fun of Slumdog Millionaire.  The fact that he happens to answer the quiz show’s questions correctly is just incidental to the rest, though it does serve to punctuate his position within society.  The message here is that even a homeless “slumdog” can have the answers that doctors, professors and other more educated people fail to, simply by virtue of his having lived.

Though it can be intense at times, Slumdog Millionaire is ultimately a tale of hope.  It’s a story that leaves one feeling good at the end as well as thinking deeply about the many messages that lay within each of the movie’s shorter stories.  Definitely a must-see for anyone who loves intelligent and moving cinema.