We’d been hearing it everywhere, and you may have as well: “Go see this movie.” “This is a movie you have to see.” So you might well ask, is it really all that?
The premise and structure of the movie are brilliant. Set in and around the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” the contestant Jamal is on the verge of winning it all. Being a “slumdog,” though — an uneducated and presumably ignorant denizen of the worst slums — he’s suspected of cheating.
We first meet in at police headquarters, where he’s being variously mock-drowned and electrocuted, as the police try and get him to confess. Once they realize he’s being truthful they sit down with him for a chat, and the main part of the movie proceeds.
We see the questions he’s gotten right in a replay of the show, interspersed with long flashbacks of his childhood and youth, and the things that have happened to him — by turns comic and horrific — that have pretty well seared the answers to the random questions it turns out he was asked into his memory.
Along the way we meet his brother, who went on to a life of crime, and the love interest, whom they both met when they were all orphaned together as children in an anti-Muslim pogrom. Their tales are interwoven with each others as they grow together and apart into early adulthood.
Danny Boyle’s direction (viz “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine”) and the assortment of location shots throughout India are wonderful. Watch especially the scenes with small children, and then try to remember that these kids are just acting.
And stick around for the closing credits — they’re the best. This one gets four stars, with me wishing it went up to five.