by HELEN GEIB
Slumdog Millionaire is a crowd-pleaser of the highest order. It tells the rags-to-happiness story of a young man named Jamal Malik, a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” who started life in a Mumbai slum. Danny Boyle directed from a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy adapted from Vikas Swarup’s novel “Q&A.” Dev Patel as Jamal heads the fine cast, a mix of professional and non-professional actors. The original music for score and songs, part of a soundtrack that contributes immeasurably to the film’s appeal, is by A. R. Rahman.
The title introduces the theme of contrast. There are the startling contrasts in the different stages in the lives of Jamal and his brother Salim. The contrasts between the choices they make and between the things they want. The contrasts between contemporary Mumbai and the city of their childhood (“when we returned, Bombay had become Mumbai”), and in the varied lives of the millions who live there.
For all that the film is built around contrast, it is equally built around connection. All of the incidents of Jamal’s story – terrible, beautiful, mundane – are parts of a single life: his character and decisions connect his childhood in the slum to his appearance on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” He is connected to Salim and to his sweetheart Latika because he loves them. Destiny connects answers he knows to the quiz show questions he’s given. When he takes the chair to answer the final question, shared suspense connects the city.
Slumdog Millionaire received eight Academy Awards for 2008, including picture, direction, adapted screenplay, cinematography, editing, score, and song. DVD special features include two audio commentaries, one by Boyle and Patel and a second by producer Christian Colson and Beaufoy; a documentary on the making of the film; and numerous deleted scenes.
Other new releases this week: Cthulhu, Holding Trevor, Marley and Me, No Regret, The Other End of the Line, Seven Pounds, Tell No One