2008 • Slumdog Millionaire

We’re so close to the end of our Best Picture project! 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire is the second most recent winner (soon to be third), and it doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago that Lauren and I, then just engaged, saw it in the Edina Landmark Theater. It was up against some stiff competition that year—Milk and Frost/Nixon were the two movies that I thought were just as good as Slumdog. I didn’t like Benjamin Button and I still haven’t seen The Reader.  My vote that year probably would have gone to Slumdog, however.

The story takes place in India over the course of the life of Jamal Malik, who is stunning the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire TV audience and producers with his ability to correctly answer every question. Before he can answer the final question, the show ends for the day. Assuming he was somehow cheating, Jamal is interrogated and tortured until he can explain how he was able to answer all the questions. Jamal by coincidence has real life experience to back up his knowing every answer. Through his explanations, we learn about the hardships Jamal and his brash older brother Salim faced growing up after their mother was murdered, as well as Jamal’s longtime love of the beautiful Latika, who he is attempting to reunite with–the very reason he has gone on the show in the first place.

I thought it was a weird idea for the movie to center around the game show, considering the heyday of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was long over in 2001 and the show is now airing weekday afternoons in syndication. But the movie is based in India, where perhaps the show is still relevant.

The kid actors portraying youthful Jamal, Salim, and Latika were all excellent. I read how they were chosen out of tens of thousands of poor Indian kids trying to get the coveted roles, but in the end they ended up only getting several hundred dollars for their year of work on the film and some ended up living in even worse poverty than before. I also thought Anil Kapoor, the only well-known Indian actor in the movie, was very good in his role as the host of Millionaire.

Despite Slumdog winning big at the Oscars that year with eight awards, it was not nominated for a single acting award. Not surprising considering the three main characters were portrayed by three actors each. I know Dev Patel and Freida Pinto are the first-billed, but if anyone in this movie had received an acting nomination I bet it would have been in the Supporting categories.

In the end, I liked the movie a lot, and I really liked the idea of the questions from the show telling the story of the life of Jamal. However, I thought a lot of it was really predictable. That it ended up being a love story between Jamal and Latika was not a surprise to me, but that does not take away from the feel-good tear-jerk sensation. Just because I saw the ending coming doesn’t mean it ruins anything for me. I imagine I will rank this movie in the middle of the pack.

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