Released 2008 (USA)
British, in English (lots of mostly translated Hindi)
Directors – Danny Boyle & Loveleen Tandan
Stars – Dev Patel, Freida Pinto
When Jamal Malik (Patel), a boy born in the slums of Mumbai, makes it to the final round of the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” questions arise as to whether he’s been cheating. His life story is told through the lens of a police interrogation. Pinto co-stars as Jamal’s love interest Latika.
A surprising amount of violence, including torture (even of children); some really minor blue language; and brief child nudity (male butt only).
I knew nothing about the film and somehow I’d gotten the impression that it was a happy fun-time musical. Luckily, a friend had recently let me know that my perception was faulty. So, I felt prepared going in. I wasn’t prepared. There are a lot of very disturbing things that happen in this film, especially the torture scenes (even though they aren’t especially graphic). Also, it isn’t a musical at all.
In the beginning, the jumps between Jamal’s distant past, his recent past, and the present were very jarring. It took me a while to get into the flow of it.
I feel like they gave the audience the ending they thought they wanted but I’m not convinced that it felt very true.
I liked the story and characters a lot. I particularly enjoyed the way it showed how Jamal knew each of the answers. I liked that each of the characters was very believable, as were their actions. I enjoyed the complex interplay between Jamal and his brother Salim (adult Salim played by Madhur Mittal), love combined with competition and a hint of hate. It felt like a true sibling relationship.
I wouldn’t say that anyone’s acting blew me away (although all the child actors were pretty great) but as an ensemble cast, I thought they played really well off one another.
I really enjoyed it. The story is both interesting and engrossing. It does a good job of making you care about the characters. I never felt bored. In fact, the time flew by, which is rare amongst Oscar winners, let me tell you (although it’s only 2 hours long, on the short side for one of these). While I don’t consider this movie to be the final authority on Indian economic and caste issues, I still felt like I learned a bit more about a culture I know little about. If you don’t want to see guys get beat up and shot or little kids get tortured, perhaps you should skip this one. Otherwise, you might want to give it a shot. I know I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t anything like I thought it was going to be, and ultimately that was a good thing.
I give the movie 4 stars.