Publisher's note: With Director Danny Boyle so much in the news, in Great Britain and the world, after directing the opening ceremony of this XXX Olympiad, we will examine the last of the film reviews from contributor Wyatt Sanderman Day in this, our last unpublished review, from Better Angels NOW, of Slumdog Millionaire.
You see, many months ago, March 12, 2012, I was perusing our sister publication, Better Angels Now, and I noticed that so many of Wyatt's reviews, of the many fine films that occupy his public's interest, have not been availed to our readers through our Beaufort County Now publication.
Consequently, over the next many weeks, possibly months, we will endeavor to remedy this mild injustice by publishing these reviews, in our current improved format, for your edification. Here below is our twenty-six in a series of these older articles of interest by our well read friend, Wyatt Sanderman Day.
Finally... India finds its own Rocky Balboa
Sylvestor Stallone's "Rocky," the low budget Cinderella story released in 1976, knows few challengers in the rags to respectability motif. It was a tale told simply, honestly and with great conviction. It is a classic.
"Slumdog Millionaire," is a more complex story, yet like "Rocky," it is an Hindi yarn of a young Indian boy struggling to survive, while endeavoring to salvage what grace he can scavenge, like so many crumbs from the meager table of the proletariat.
Like the boxer Rocky, street smart Jamal Malik (the slumdog), portrayed by 17 year old, newcomer Dev Patel, must use the qualities that he possesses in abundance to survive. For Rocky Balboa, it was his extreme toughness. For Jamal, it the immediate recall of his street honed, deep cognitive powers. The similar quality that they both keep is their abundant good hearts, full of an innate love for others. It is the quality that makes "Rocky" much more than a boxing story, and "Slumdog" much more than a Cinderella story, in that both films collectively control the members of the audience, who can identify with these heroes.
The story of "Slumdog Millionaire" begins in Bombay more than 25 years ago, when the slums were a grim reality. After Jamal, played competently by younger actors, and brother, Salim, suffer the death of their young mother from an organized Muslim attack against the poor, defenseless Hindu's living in their slum. From that point on, the brothers are forced to live on their own, and by their wits, they are able to survive the cruel streets of Bombay.
Another casualty of the vicious Muslim attack is a young girl, Latika, which Jamal befriends with empathy and kindness. The three orphaned children face a series of perilous conflicts until they are separated in an escape from the evil Maman, portrayed by Ankur Vikal, who turns lost children into slaves. The loss of Latika becomes the focus of Jamal's life, and he thinks of "every waking moment." At this point, "Slumdog Millionaire" is no longer just a tale of orphaned children against the backdrop of profound poverty, but a love story, that is as pure as any fairy tale.
As the story of the brothers evolve from victims within the cruel Maman's slave ring to pre adolescents, growing stronger in the ways of the world of living on the streets of India, the story of Latika runs in a concurrent channel. Latika, growing more beautiful with each day and perfectly cast with first time actress Frieda Pinto, survives to a kept life of some sustenance with gangsters. She is a modern day Sleeping Beauty, awake, but emotionally unconscious.
Factor in the popular television program, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," as a dramatic vehicle and you have a simmering soup of dramatic conflict that pleads for resolution. The dramatic tension of this element in the story, as well as the tension between Jamal and the show's host is palpable. It is at this point Director Danny Boyle and Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy earn their keep by keeping this story believable, while powering it to a conclusion that befit's the fairytale genre.
Both Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy won the Oscar for their efforts in their respective jobs. "Slumdog Millionaire" also won for Best Picture, and another five Oscars for various categories, too numerous to mention, and that's a lot of awards. Considering the quantity of its wins at the 81st Oscar Awards, is "Slumdog Millionaire" another "Lawrence of Arabia" or "Godfather" or "Gone with the Wind?" No. Is it the best film of the year? No, I have seen other films released in 2008 as good or better, but not by much. Maybe it's the best film of all that were nominated, but, I have not seen all that were nominated since they not all come out on DVD; however, I will report their merits to you as soon as possible.
In relative terms, concerning the Oscar for Best Perfect, the ultra low budget "Rocky" is the better film and is already a classic by knowledgeable people. "Slumdog Millionaire'" like "Rocky," was wise to accentuate the purposeful goodness of good hearted people. It is a fine story and I believe the film will have a good shelf life. In that regard, maybe one day, it too will be a classic.
Rated R. Released on DVD March 31, 2009. 120 minutes of runtime.
This post appears courtesy of our sister site, Beaufort County NOW, with their expressed permission.