Slumdog Millionaire Review
A Best Picture winner that I still find deserving of the award
This review comes from my Letterboxd profile, where I write reviews about every movie I see.
This is the kind of movie I can see a lot of people reflecting on today and thinking it's overrated. It won a ton of Oscars back in the day, including the coveted Best Picture award, and this is one of those films I can see being more scrutinized today than it was back then. However, to me, Slumdog Millionaire is still a total blast of a film with legitimately visceral direction from Danny Boyle. His style is very particular, and when it works in the stories he's trying to tell, it works. Usually, I hate that kind of choppy slow motion that is manually created by the editors instead of filmed using slow-motion cameras. It's been done in films like Lord of the Rings, and it always puts me off every single time... except in the case of 127 Hours and now this movie. For whatever reason, whenever Boyle utilizes the technique in his films, it feels natural for his particular vision and actually fits in the film's structure. I don't know how he does it, but honestly, I'm not complaining about it.
All of the acting is really charming, particularly from the one and only Dev Patel. I've always liked this guy, he's charismatic and just a likable presence in everything I've seen him in, and here, he might give my favorite performance of his. There's a novelty behind a teenage Patel and there's something really organic about his performance that I empathized with throughout the film's runtime. Along with his character and performance, everyone else's character and performances are also really likable, and the film, as a whole, moves so quickly. I was so invested in this film that I was blown away when a half-hour had already passed. The pacing never drags, there's never a moment where I didn't root for these characters. Heck, there were even quite a few moments, especially within the first half of the film, that actually made me wince with how viscerally they were executed. The chase sequences are all phenomenal, the idea of editing back and forth between the main character playing this game show and how he learned these answers from his various life experiences is such a fantastic one that is executed so brilliantly, and there was nothing about this film that felt like it was holding back from the harshness of the Indian slums. I tried watching this with my parents and my mom had to tap out after 40 minutes, that's how powerfully those first few sequences work to establish the terrible conditions these children had to grow up under, and it makes you empathize even more for these people.
I can't say I'm an authority on Indian culture in any way, shape, or form, so maybe I'm misinformed when I say this, but it personally feels to me that Boyle and the screenwriter Simon Beaufoy did a great job of respecting the culture and translating it to an American film. They even allow the characters to speak their native language throughout the course of the film instead of forcing them to only speak English so that we can always understand them without reading a bit of text on the screen. There are two moments in this film where they speak English and edit text onto the screen even though the dialogue they speak is clear (which I've mentioned in previous reviews is a pet peeve of mine), but for me personally, that's really the only glaring issue I had with this narrative. On top of that, the end credits sequence is one of the most creative I've ever seen, allowing for a really unique incorporation of the song that would later go on to win an Oscar. I'm not gonna tell you what happens during these end credits, you should just see it for yourself.
There's something about Danny Boyle's style that just feels so different, and it really works for a complicated story like this. Everything about the way this film is put together worked for me, from the brilliant direction and writing to the likable characters and performances to A.R. Rahman's great score to the amazing editing that allows for really fun chase sequences and creative explorations of character's backstories. To me, Slumdog Millionaire still holds up, and I'd go as far as to say I still think it deserves Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and everything else it won. Sure, there were a few moments here or there that seemed to wobble the plot in a strange direction for a bit and perhaps this isn't the greatest portrayal of Indian culture ever put to screen, but there is nothing about this film to me that screams out any purposefully negative messages, and frankly, it's engaging and moves quickly from the very first scene. Four movies in a row that I've given my highest grade. Man, I've been having a good movie week.
Letter Grade: A+