Slumdog Millionaire

Where do I begin? This movie is involving, exciting, funny, horrific, unpredictable, and utterly captivating. It won a "Peoples Choice" award for Best Director for Danny Boyle ("Sunshine" and "Millions") at the Toronto Film Festival, and it will open in the U.S. in time to qualify for a Best Film Oscar. The official opening date originally was early 2009. The wonderful script was written by Simon Beaufoy ("The Full Monty," "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" and "Blow Dry"). Considering my fondness for those films, I'm not surprised I liked it.

We follow orphaned Jamal as he and his brother struggle to survive the Dickensian squalor and poverty of Indian slums. They are Muslim, so are attacked by Hindus. (Yes, religious zealotry rears its ugly head all over the world!) They are energetic and fearless, as evidenced by their many clever ploys and schemes. At one point, one of the little guys poses as a tour guide at the Taj Mahal while the other steals shoes that must be left outside the edifice. As time goes by, they are joined by Latika, a desperate little girl about their age who would like to be their "Third Musketeer."

Eventually they taken in by what seems to be a kindly man, but who intends to maim Jamal to increase his value as a street beggar. Rescued by his brother, they try to save the girl too, but she loses her grip while trying to escape on a moving train (this movie is action PACKED!). By the time Jamal becomes a contestant in the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?," the three of them have been separated for a few years, so he hopes the resulting visibility will help him reconnect with the other two.

This is a wonderful illustration of how a street urchin learns the trivia he needs for such a contest. Brace yourself for some interspersed scenes of torture, as the host of the show is sure Jamal is being fed the answers and he wants the police to get a confession before the big payoff.

The adult versions of Jamal and the girl are appealing in every way. Freida Pinto, the lovely actress who plays the adult Latika, is one of the most beautiful actresses ever to grace the silver screen. She and Dev Patel, who plays the adult Jamal, make attractive survivors of the savage slums of Mumbai: Their characters are wary, observant, street smart and have earned a happy ending. I always want someone to root for and this movie delivers!

By the way, of the five movies in bold face in the first paragraph, I heartily recommend all but "Sunshine," and that's simply because I haven't seen it. Go to your NetFlix or Blockbuster reservations list RIGHT NOW.

Be sure to watch through the credits, as they toss in a Bollywood musical number as a bonus...
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Here is what it looks like:
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