Slumdog Millionaire Review
"Slumdog Millionaire", Film4, 2008
A compelling rags to riches story that incorporates the emotional dynamism of its life-story genre and the stylistic signatures of Danny Boyle in a very engaging and gratifying way.
The seamlessness of this treatment is something in itself to commend bearing in mind the career trajectory of the director (from Trainspotting to 28 Days Later). The director's hyperrealist incorporation of unconventional narrative structure, canted camera angles, variation of shutter speed, use of light and colour and cartoonish characterisation somehow makes a perfect fit for the emotional vulnerability of the Jamal's story. The juxtaposition between he's exuberantly flashy style and the grittiness of the diegesis playfully plays into the conflicts in the film, which are smartly ideological between the western and eastern world. The constant power struggle between the rich and the powerful (perfectly epitomised by the foil between Jamal and his brother and the dark direction it takes), although fuelled by the greed of a whole nation clutching at straws for dominance, is grounded by characters that personify the westoxification that pollutes India, some of whom are presented through genre codes alluding to crime genres. The lack of temporal frequency that guides the obtuse pacing of the film effectively and poignantly positions the audience alongside the dizzyingly rawness of the world we see Jamal trying to navigate, highlighting further this lack of national identity, grounding a primal sense of energy - perhaps echoing from how the powerful prey on the week. I believe the strength of this is the binary sense of structure that accommodates and carries the ever enveloping nature of this vulnerability. The cause and effect style of the narrative is shaped by the quest-like feel of the 3 acts - the journey to find Latika. Retaining the self-aware tone of the genre tropes, this narrative device, alongside the imagery that carefully guides audiences between the past and the present, effectively opens the room for wider reading regarding the psychological torment that comes with the struggle for morality.
Overall, I think this is a well-paced/executed and deceptively smart underdog tale that brilliantly explores the universal themes of growing up, fate and perseverance through a lens that playfully hints towards intricacies of class divide.