Some movies don’t just tell stories. They create worlds where the viewers inhabit them, just as much as the characters do. The viewers feel more alive and more exhilarated than they did a few fleeting hours back before they experienced the film. Slumdog Millionaire very safely makes itself a place in that small group of films. Director Danny Boyle has taken us from the lives of British heroin addicts to a group of Earth-saving astronauts, and finally, to the slums of Mumbai.
What really makes Slumdog Millionaire that special is the sense of discovery and the notion of exploration. As Jamal learns about the harsh realities of poverty and street-life, we are there with him. We experience the horrors and the wonders of the predicament Jamal finds himself in. Danny Boyle has often said that he does not try to be stylish in his directing, but it comes so naturally to him that he makes the film version of Mumbai into the living, breathing world it is in reality. Of course, equal credit has to be given to the amazing cinematography that makes it seem so stunningly beautiful with the breathtaking establishing shots and the 3rd-person-esque camera angles that make the viewer feel like he or she is actually there.
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Despite all the phenomenal film-making at hand, Slumdog Millionaire, at it’s core, is a love story between Jamal and his childhood friend, Latika. It’s a love that, for the most part, seems almost implausible. But like all great fairy tales, it’s this simplicity that this love invokes that speaks to the irrational desire to have that special significant other, and the tragedy that exists of possibly losing that someone forever.
2008 was a tremendous year for cinema, with critically-acclaimed masterpieces and box-office juggernauts that have cemented their place into the consciousness of pop-culture. Films such as Let the Right One In, The Wrestler and The Dark Knight, which were great in their own right, encompassed brooding, depressing themes and questioned the state of humanity. Yet, Slumdog Millionaire dared one to believe that, in a world filled with such bleakness, the power of love and hope can still hold sway. It took tired clichés such as love-at-first-sight and rags-to-riches, and made them refreshing and thrilling once again. Indeed, it was the most uplifting film of 2008 and my favorite film of that year.