Some days, there’s a movie…
The day of the screening for Slumdog Millionaire, I was wiped. I’d been up late the night before doing homework, had around five, six hours of sleep when all’s said and done, taken a test, and just generally felt like going home and making myself some comfort food. I kind of figured that even if I did drag my ass to the screening, I wasn’t really in the condition to appreciate the film (this assuming I could stay awake), besides which I was never really that into seeing the film. I haven’t seen many Danny Boyle films, and I hadn’t even seen the trailer for this. But the film had such a massive reception at Toronto and Telluride that I figured it should be on my radar, so I went.
And some days, there’s a movie that lifts you up and want to jump for joy.
Some days, there’s a movie that deserves all the praise you could yell and yell and yell about the film, but that just seems like hyperbole. But I went and stood in line for over an hour (gotta love free preview screenings) when I was dead tired based solely on positive reviews, so if this in any way makes one person go see this film, I’ll hyperbole the shit out of it.
First off, the fear of falling asleep couldn’t have possibly been a concern – the theater cranked the volume past any level I’d heard outside of an IMAX. The place friggin’ SHOOK from the start and didn’t let up ‘til Danny Boyle said it was okay to. Which was fine by me; between that and Boyle’s aesthetic, it made the film reverberate, making it seem like the screen was just barely containing it. If you know a theater near you that keeps the volume loud, hit that one. But beyond that (and I’m sure this will come as little surprise to Boyle fans), the film so completely pulses with life, it’s impossible to avert your attention.
And it’s stunning. Really, truly, stunning. A few years ago I read an article on Danny Boyle that described his films as uniquely physical experiences, and that was absolutely the case here. The and the emotional, and quite often physical, journey you go on with this film is simply staggering. I don’t mean because you spend time in the slums of India and life is kind of the suck there, although there’s a bit of that too, but Boyle doesn’t hammer away at it. It’s all there, all the horrible stuff you hear that kids, especially orphans, have had to do to survive (if they do) in third world countries. But somewhere between the explosive, inspirational ending – and, yes, it is possible to still be inspired by the movies, even though quote whores have raped that term – and Boyle’s refusal to dwell on the defeats but celebrate the victories, I was left the film truly uplifted.
The film’s one-sentence summary does very little to justify its achievement. Basically, yeah, it’s about this 18-year-old kid (Jamal) from the slums of India who goes on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, comes within one question of winning it all, and is arrested for cheating. “How could a street kid know so much?” the screening pass asked us. With that in mind, I was sure it was going to be about injustice and have a whole lot of Good Will Hunting moments that showed how much you can learn without any money if you just hit the library. Or something.
How wrong was I. The film instead follows an interesting format up ‘til the third act – the police ask Jamal how he knew the answers to the questions on the show, and we dive into a flashback that explains not just how he knew those answers, but who he is. A LOT of the film is spent with Jamal and his brother as kids, which provides for some of the most excruciating parts of the film, but also many of the most joyous – the boys’ railroad journey is permanently etched in my mind, and was the defining moment in the film where I absolutely fell into it.
I cannot heap enough praise on this film. I’ve been a little behind on films this year – only seen about 30 or so (I’m working Netflix overtime to catch up) – but this is far and away the best film I’ve seen so far this year. It’s not even close. It’ll be in select theaters November 12, so watch for it starting then.
Scott can be reached at Snye@megazinemedia.com
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