Dubbed “the feel good hit of the decade”, Slumdog has been gathering awards and nominations like a squirrel in a nut factory, and caused a stampede of easily swayed pundits to go and see it, expecting a nice, feel good piece on an Indian kid winning Who Wants to be a Millionaire. According to the posters he punches the air in excitement and a woman in yellow falls in love with him, and everyone goes away happy and elated. Feel good!
Slumdog opens with some light torture before moving on to abject poverty, senseless and brutal death, and child exploitation and mutilation. Feel good! It uses the Millionaire questions as a clever way of tracking back through slumdog Jamal’s life, perhaps suggesting that missing an education on a variety of abstract topics does not make you an idiot – life is your education. Nice thought. But Slumdog moves away from that when it’s clear why Jamal went on the programme in the first place, resulting in an overly schmaltzy ending that’s more corny than feel good.
But Danny Boyle’s hyperactive direction mixed with a thumping soundtrack carries you along for most of the film, and you will care what happens to Jamal (a coolly collected Dev Patel) and his older brother (looking weirdly like Michael Jackson in his Thriller days). The story grips mainly during the flashback scenes, following Jamal’s torturous childhood, and it’s only when the past catches up with the present that the foot comes off the accelerator a little, and we are steered towards cheese land.
Still, it’s a nice blend of the Bollywood with the Boyle, whose diversity is impressive given his last film was a claustrophobic horror in space. Perhaps not quite as monumental as the hype machine would have you believe, and very poorly marketed as some feelgood brit-flick (it’s much deeper than that tag would suggest) Slumdog is punchy, original and emotive, slamming you from poo jokes to murder as swiftly as the questions change on Millionaire.
It notches up an extra point for its colourful exuberance but doesn’t really climb any higher for that whiff of cheese, so slumming in neatly with a CF1. Probably the Juno of this Oscar year. Without the pregnancy. Or the strong female character. Or… oh you know what I mean, though.