ReviewWriter: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang YangWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"City Of God"
One of the most talked about movies of last year, "Slumdog Millionaire" invites comment not only for of its themes but its production. It's the sort of movie that aspires to be larger than life and unwittingly ends up being so, affecting the lives of many by the simple virtue of existing. Just ask the 'slumdog' child actors, whom apparently had trust funds set up for them for starring in the movie.
In any case, playing up the age-old underdog sentiment, director Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting", "28 Days Later") has taken the MTV pop route of shooting a deceptively romantic story about some young nobody who rises from the stinking streets of Mumbai (or at least that's how it's depicted) to the verge of winning a life-changing amount on money on India's premiere television gameshow. Little would he have known that he'd be answering to the film's many detractors on one hand, and the Oscar nominations on the other.
Critically acclaimed in the West but frowned upon by many in its native India, "Slumdog" has good reason to divide; while international audiences lauded the 'insider look' from the comfort of cinema seats, local sentiments generally echo those who first took offense to the very film title. As activists continue holding up their "I Am Not A Dog" placards (as reported), we are forced into the academic meandering on whether stereotyping in movies do a nation harm, even if its with the best intentions of its makers.
Successfully breeding Tinseltown production values with Bollywood storytelling, it's no wonder "Slumdog" is the undisputed sleeper hit of 2008 when you see how novel and engaging the premise of the plot is. However, romanticising the movie can go to far and it ends up being a largely unreflective piece of populist art, managing only the embarrassing feat of having glossed over themes like crime and poverty - the losing sides of globalisation, including of course, child exploitation. The most convincing analogy so far is written by one Matthew Schneeberger: "Say an Indian director travelled to New Orleans for a few months to film a movie about Jamal Martin, an impoverished African American who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina, who once had a promising basketball career, but who, following a drive-by shooting, now walks with a permanent limp, whose father is in jail for selling drugs, whose mother is addicted to crack cocaine, whose younger sister was killed by gang violence, whose brother was arrested by corrupt cops, whose first born child has sickle cell anaemia, and so on. The movie would be widely panned and laughed out of theatres."
"Slumdog" can look to something like Brazil's "City Of God" to find out where it went pop. It is movies like the former that retain class in storytelling without offending the viewer, wherever in the world he may be seeing it. One suspects that if anyone really liked this movie (or is going to like it), chances are that it was a case of 'outside looking in'. Like the recent Baz Luhrmann epic "Australia", we sure do like a privileged beautiful ride through tough, dirty places.Cinema Online, 12 February 2009