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Cinema Signal:

Director's Cut (Collector's Edition) (1996)
by Danny Boyle
(DVD from Amazon)
. "Slumdog Millionaire"

Director Danny Boyle's answer to "Across the Universe," I call this lush and dynamic tale that uses "a boy's quest for the girl" journey and an exceptionally vibrant musical score a similarly inspired and ingenious piece of work. Whether the connection I'm making between the two pictures is valid or not, Boyle brings a heightened level of inventiveness and originality to his work and to his craft. This powerhouse of drama, crime and romance is a formula-shattering irresistible force.

The storytelling structure is more than clever as it motivates a time travel of vignettes, traversing years in the growing up of two "impoverished slumdog" brothers. So, as my first piece of trial evidence for its originality, I ask why, at its start, it intercuts between Jamal Malik's (Dev Patel) turn on the center podium of an Indian version of "Who Wants To Be a Millionairre" game show with his being tortured in desperate circumstances in a police station, electric shock treatment, and all.

The answer is that this is Boyle's and his screenwriter's (Simon Beaufoy) structural framework. The police station scene is taking place at around the time Jamal has already won a million rupees--enough wealth to capture the imagination of the nation. Ratings go through the roof as Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor), the game master of ceremonies (and the only person who has ever won the game), put it into the minds of the cops that this boy who has all the answers might just be pulling some kind of fraud.

The suggestion, with no evidentiary basis, is enough for extreme police measures. Once their torture has the affect of making the prisoner talk, the inspector (impressive Irfan Khan) takes the suspected fraudster through every one of the answers that has brought him to the point of great fortune. Each explanation takes Jamal back to his childhood of minor crime, begging, opportunism, kidnap and escape, to the maturation of con gaming with his bigger brother Samil. To the rainy night when he first let Latika (Freida Pinto) join him and his brother in the shelter of a truck, when he first assumed an unbreakable bond with this girl.

Jamal speaks with total candor, even implicating himself in serious crime, and dutifully shows the inspector why he was able to answer the game's questions so well. The stories recount his utter belief in the destiny of his and Latika's ultimate reunion, even while she's being held as chattel by a brutal trader in whatever human victim he can turn into cash. As he finds her and loses her over and over again, the task would seem futile to anyone else. In fact, he chose to enter the game competition only because he knew Latika watched it and hoped to make contact through it.

This isn't a musical, but the Rahman score of moods and rhythms that bring together an eastern and western spectrum becomes a character. There's no mistaking the importance it must have had on Boyle's inspiration in the development of the story, and it might have come to the director's notice when he heard what Rahman had composed for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" in 2007.

The Indian actors are little known to American audiences save for those who attend art houses regularly. Of them, who comprise a strong cast, including the child and teen actors who play Latika and the brothers through time, Anil Kapoor might be the most recognizable as the game's grand master. Patel's calm stability is outstanding as the young man who has no guile but answer's the cop's questions so undeviously that the older man releases him in time for a big, complex and powerful ending that uses all the hoopla and excitement of the game itself.

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The Blu-ray Edition DVD

The Soundtrack
by Oscar winner for Best Song A.H. Rahman

The cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle ("The Last King of Scotland") is as adventurous and varied as the story commands, from documentary style crowd pandemonium, to the minimalism of the Indian slum, to the grandeur and spectacle of the game show. Through the visual palette you taste the curry and the condiments.

And, finally, this isn't Bollywood--not anywhere close. It's the kind of realism that's the mark of Boyle's offtimes uncompromising style, with all the criminality and viciousness that greed and selfishness spawns. It is, after all, out of this miasma of cruelty and idealism that the romance takes root and fills us with a sense of masterful achievement.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Very well written
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
Site rating: 10

Good Review to watch this movie.

                                                           ~~ Todd F. 
Well written
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
Site rating: 4

This review was pretty graphic but the movie should have a warning that it will cause nightmares and nausea in the viewer. due to the graphic violence it is unwatchable. Whole rows of people walked out and asked for their money back in the theater I was in.

                                                           ~~ Cecily B.
[Ed. note: Hmmm. Interesting. Cecily, if you check back in here could you use the form again to let us know what city you're in? Thanks.]

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Dev Patel and Freida Pinto
The star-crossed lovers.

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