Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Rubina Ali, Madhur Mittal, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Sanchita Choudhary, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan
Written by: Simon Beaufoy, based on a novel by Vikas Swarup
Directed by: Danny Boyle
MPAA Rating: R for some violence, disturbing images and language
Language: English, Hindi, with English subtitles
Running Time: 120
Date: 08/30/2008

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Final Answer

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For his newest film, director Danny Boyle uses the stomping rhythms of Bollywood showtunes just as he used the thrusting beat of Iggy Pop to drive Trainspotting, and the result is his best picture since that 1996 hit. The bright colors, dynamic angles and kinetic cutting keep a powerful beat for two whole hours.

Dev Patel stars as Jamal (he's the oldest of three actors portraying different ages), who flashes back to his entire life story -- including slums, evil con-men, gangsters, guns, chases and escapes -- while sweating under the lights of TV's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." His hope is to find his true love, Latika (Freida Pinto), who has been forced into the service of gangsters.

Writer Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), who adapted a novel by Vikas Swarup, turns in one of his tightly constructed crowd pleasers, cleverly manipulating the flashback structure and the highly dramatic nature of the game show. It sometimes has a hallucinogenic feel, like All That Jazz (1979), but the thrilling energy of a Bollywood romance comes through in the end, matched with some D.W. Griffith-style last-minute races, and we're hooked. Loveleen Tandan is credited as a co-director. Anthony Dod Mantle provided the cinematography.

Fox's much-anticipated DVD release comes with a commentary track by Boyle and Patel, and a second track with writer Beaufoy and producer Christian Colson. We get 33 minutes of deleted scenes, a 23-minute making-of featurette, and a 5-minute "Slumdog Cutdown," which is essentially a music video for the Oscar-winning song "Jia Ho," accompanied to clips from the film. And, yes, there are helpful optional English subtitles.

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