We finally got to see the location movie of the year – Slumdog Millionaire last night. Shot on location in the megaslums of Mumbai (there’s a great story about python wrangling along the train tracks at Hollywood Reporter), the film is choc-a-bloc with rich, pungent, vibrant, colourful, teeming, tumultuous images of that massive city – each of them sparking familiar sights and sounds – and smells – from the few times I’ve been there.
The movie progresses in series of flash-backs. Jamal, who’s been orphaned early due to religious violence, ends up as a contestant on India’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire to try to find his lost love, Latika. Although he has a basic education, he amazingly seems to know all the answers and the show’s unctuous host calls in the heavy handed cops….
But is Slumdog a good movie? Well that depends….. It doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to be a “worthy” movie – though it introduces the audience to a whole host of jaw-dropping social injustices. And it doesn’t succumb to being just light entertainment – see comment above. It even has flaws; the caricature Westerners were horribly jarring in a movie where it was otherwise always possible for an outsider to suspend disbelief. And I’ve written elsewhere about the questionable slum tourism that Slumdog has spawned.
But those really are minor complaints in a movie that is a much greater sum of its effervescent, noisy, loving parts. Brit teen Dev Patel is first rate as Jamal; Freida Pinto is drop dead gorgeous. The score is noteworthy too. So, personally, I thought Slumdog Millionaire was a great film-going experience, and I felt rewarded by having seen it. That doesn’t happen so much these days.