Rarely in cinema has a movie so approximated perfection as Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Easily the best movie of 2008, and arguably of the past decade, the movie tells the story of Jamal Malik, an orphaned Muslim street urchin from the slums of Bombay who, as the movie begins, finds himself one question away from winning the jackpot on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
With the final question postponed until the next show, Jamal is whisked away by police for interrogation on suspicion of cheating. After all, how could a kid with no formal education possibly have gotten further than all comers before him, right? It’s under this setting that the viewer is made privy to how Jamal knows the answers based on flashbacks to his life growing up on the streets, and a rich tableau it is.
Boyle and co-director Loveleen Tandan, working from a script by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) which was, in turn, based on the novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, tell a tale rich in plot twists, characterization, and so completely full of heart that it ought to be institutionalized viewing at film schools. Set against the backdrop of the India’s rich social underbelly, we are introduced to a love story that spans years, as Jamal relentlessly pursues his childhood dreamgirl Latika (portrayed by the stunning Freida Pinto as an adult), whom he meets while scouring India’s garbage dumps for resellable scraps, while maintaining a love/hate relationship with his brother Salim. Along the way we are given insight into the moral makeup of each brother, and the ever growing divergent path that each will take later in life. At each stage, the acting by various cast members entrusted with depicting Jamal, Salim and Latika is uniformly seamless, further enhancing the movie’s almost mesmerizing effect.
Boyle, Tandan and Beaufoy work their movie canvas akin to Rembrandt as they spin their enthralling web, which is as perfectly plotted, paced, characterized, acted and edited, as possible, making this as close to cinematic perfection as can be. If you see one movie this year, make it this one. As a reviewer I can give it no greater accolade.