Occasionally – far too occasionally – a film comes along that once again reminds you of the power of the cinematic experience: how movement, composition, light, colour and music can be stunningly shaped to create the most exquisite drama. Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Millions) is no stranger to style and has never been shy of driving his film stories along at a cracking pace. Slumdog Millionaire is his best yet – a sensory rollercoaster ride through the grime and chaos of urban India, shot beautifully using dramatic camera angles, cutting between extreme close ups and wide shots of impossible richness, and bursting with the desperate energy of life on the street.
Based on a best-selling book “Q&A” by Indian author Vikas Swarup, the story opens with a television quiz show – Who Wants To Be Millionaire – where young, naïve contestant Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) – an uneducated tea boy – has the chance to win more money than he could ever imagine. His luck with the questions seems uncanny and arouses the suspicion of the show’s host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor). With so much money at stake, Jamal is taken into custody and interrogated as to how he knows the answers to the questions. Slowly – with dramatic flashbacks – he reveals the details of his often violent childhood with brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) and friend Latika (Frieda Pinto), and the links between the TV show, Jamal’s past and the present start to collide.
Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay (he also wrote The Full Monty) is inventive and cleverly structured, swinging us from the raucous heart of slum life and low crime – with its heat and passion – to the cool, calculated world of the game show – and interweaving a both story through both worlds. Danny Boyle’s direction is stunning, capturing & bottling contemporary India as a frame for a racing story of one boy’s search for friendship. Expect it to pick up a swag of awards for editing, cinematography, production design and music (composed by A.R. Rahman) – as well as screenwriting and directing – definitely the best film of 2008.