Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Tony said,

Get in your car, head over to Kahala, and see Slumdog Millionaire as soon as you can. Seriously.

It’s the new movie by Danny Boyle. Mostly native Indian cast. The story of two brothers and a girl framed by one brother’s appearance on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Beautifully shot. Amazingly acted (even by the children). The movie fits together perfectly without being trite. And it has some of my favorite story-telling devices ever.

Really. Truly. If you get the chance, go!

I don’t think I enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire quite as much as Tony, but pretty close. I say this because you don’t have to get in your car and see this movie now…you can wait until the weekend if you want to. 😀

Solid acting, engaging characters, good pacing and an interesting story-telling narrative all make for a good flick. I was willing to overlook some things I didn’t understand, because the rest of the film was so strong. Also, perhaps I didn’t understand certain things because I am not really familiar with Indian culture.

Two things I didn’t understand (minor spoiler alert):

1. Why the $ in the tub? They showed that image multiple times before we find out the context…so lots of foreshadowing, but what did it really mean (besides the obvious symbolism?)

2. Why the host’s immediate dislike for the main character? Does this have something to do with the caste system? But American imports like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” chip away at such a system and he’s the host of the show. Plus, obviously this kid was ratings gold.

10 Responses to “Slumdog Millionaire (2008)”

  1. Reid

    Dir. Danny Boyle

    Grace loved this film, too. Jill and her boyfriend really liked this, while Joel and his wife just thought it was OK. (Joel gave it a 6.) Larri didn’t get to watch the end, but she said she thought it was boring. That wasn’t my problem with the film.This film got a lot of rave reviews from critics, and I just didn’t think it met the hype. I think Don might like this film. I have a feeling Kevin and Chris will like this, too.

    My main problem with the film was the ending. I’ve scanned some of the reviews, and I think I’m one of the few people who had a problem with it. How do people who liked the film take the ending–guessing the right answer and getting the girl? To me, it was a cop out, but maybe I’m missing something. Help me out.

    Grace told me she liked the way the film mixes the Indian culture with Western culture and references to literary motifs (like Thousand and One Nights). Another reviewer called this the first globalized film, and I know what they mean. The film, I think, is a distillation of various cultural sensibilities, and I think it can appeal to a wide audience. But this wasn’t enough for me to really like the film. Besides the ending, I’m jaded to the depiction of children in a slum world. Films like Pixote, City of God–which I thought was more stylish and interesting in terms of direction–and even Boys n’ the Hood, among others, have already thoroughly mined this territory.

    Still, to be fair, Slumdog is not just about depicting that world. That’s just a backdrop to a solid story and an interesting concept for telling the story–i.e. telling the characters’ story through explanations of the way the main character was able to answer questions on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” I did like that aspect of the film, and it made the film worth watching. Btw, Penny predicted that I would, at the very least, not think the movie was a waste of time (and I might even love it). Well, she was right, at least in terms of the former. (Still, as I told Penny, seeing a film that meets that criteria is actually not a small thing.) I also really liked the characters as young children.

    Let me just add one thing, in fairness to the film. I brought my son to the film, and I had to leave the theater a couple of times, so I might have missed something in those moments. Also, I had making out the dialogue. I don’t know if I’m just getting old or it was the speakers at the theater.


    I’d be interested in hearing more about your favorite storytelling devices employed in the film.


    I’m puzzled by the money in the tub, too. As for the host’s dislike, I thought he might have felt threatened by Jamal in that they were both came similar backgrounds and Jamal was rising quickly to the top (in the way the host did). Maybe “threatened” is not the best word for it.

    I’d like to hear you guys talk about any of the shots in the film that you thought were impressive. The direction didn’t really stand out for me.

  2. Mitchell


    It’s a good movie, but it’s not THAT good a movie! I liked the main character very much, and I fully related to his dedication to Latika. That’s the kind of thing that can make a very good movie. I also appreciated the good/bad dynamic in the brother character. His badness probably saved the main character’s life, but he was still bad.

    Was I the only one who had flashbacks to Born into Brothels while watching this film? Especially in that scene where Jamal and Salim run into the red-light district to save Latika? My experience with the documentary really enhanced my feelings for the Latika character.

    As the days have passed, I have decided that I do like the whole framework of the game show and how each question leads us to the part of Jamal’s story that explains how he knows the answer. Even with that one question where Jamal rejects the game-show host’s answer and gets it right reveals a lot about the way this character has survived a horrible life. My least favorite scene is the outhouse scene, but the tenacity that motivates Jamal to take that distasteful plunge is reflected in his character throughout the film.

    Yes, I like the film more now than I did the night I saw it.

    Tony’s fondness for it reinforces that whole thing I wrote about the characters being held to the story they must tell. “It is written,” and all that stuff.

    I’m giving it a strong 7.

  3. Reid

    OK, after talking with Grace and Penny, I feel a little foolish. Apparently, I really missed some important details (probably when I had to leave the theater to deal with my son). For example, I missed the part where Jamal explains the reason for wanting to be on the show. To me, that’s really huge. The explanation makes the ending more understandable to me. He’s on the show, primarily to find Latika and so when she calls he doesn’t care if he as the right answer or not. The fact that he does get right answer by chance, signals that he’s destined to win and get the girl. This alone bumps my rating up to at least a 6. I probably need to see this again.

  4. Mitchell

    Boy, I’ll say. I’ll bet you didn’t stay through the end credits either, when Jamal wakes up in a hospital bed and mutters, “Moira?”

  5. cindy

    Hi Penny! (I’ve really been meaning to call you, but I guess you’re used to this by now 🙂

    I loved Slumdog Millionaire! I may even volunteer to exhaust myself babysitting my niece so my sister and brother-in-law can go to Kahala and see it.

    Minor spoiler alert in response to a minor spoiler question?

    Money in the tub-

    Maybe this is the obvious symbolism you’ve already ruled out, but besides the image of mafia guys running a hot bath to commit suicide in, I thought the money in the tub was apt for Salim’s final redemption. He had to hug his pot of gold one last time to have the courage to finally give it up and submit to love. He sold-out Jamal and Latika so many times. That first scene when he sells the item Jamal went through **** for was so telling. He was probably so deeply jealous of them, especially Jamal, for having that priceless innate wholeness and passion. Throughout their lives, scrambling for money was their survival, but Jamal managed to survive while holding on to something more. Salim, unable to grasp it, resorts to brute force to subjugate or smash it while piling up more, because more is better and there is never enough.

    I really liked the music too, and nothing beats Bollywood dance scenes for their uplift factor.

  6. pen

    Cindy! Happy New Year! You better call or e-mail me. How funny…I just e-mailed you today!

    Thanks for the insight on the tub o’ money.

    In January, Doris Duke Theatre is showing a bunch of Bollywood films. Let the dancing begin!

  7. karn

    i thought the movie was amazing, it inspired to me see how much i have in life and how we should always hold onto our dreams, if a slumboy can acheive all this we can all achieve goals in our life which compared to his life are very easy for us to achieve.
    i really liked salim in the film, he had to be the bad one in the film for his brother to survive.. if he was like his brother, im sure they wouldve still been begging in the streets of mumbia which possibly their eyes gauged.
    one of the reasons for salim dying in bath tub of money is that he didnt want the gangsters to use it and also his life was formed around making money and his gun. he wanted to die in a bathtub full of moeny wat he wanted in his life and jamal got.. latika wat he wanted all his life.

  8. pen

    Just an update: this movie won the Golden Globe for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director and a few others I can’t remember right now.

    Thanks for the insight into the tub o’ $; and I agree about Salim being a tragic figure. I think part of it was his nature (selling Jamal’s autographed pic), but he tried to fight it when he could and used it to his advantage (save his and Jamal’s life, create a “better” life for them, etc.)

    This film is like a fairy tale. The themes of destiny and love. Having to overcome an evil to see that love to fruition. The perservering hero. The “tests” or hurdles to pass that make for an adventure. This film just focuses more on the evolving prince than the aspiring princess.

  9. Marc


    Christi and I saw this last night and really enjoyed it. I agree with some of the earlier comments about the fairy tale nature of the story. I liked the interplay between a sweet story that was wrapped up in Danny Boyle’s humor tinged depictions of violence and poverty. I thought that there was real genious in how some of the climactic plot devices were set up from a story-telling point of view. Yes, you had the sense that Jamal and Latika would get together but the story found a way to do this while tying together some really good threads that they set up throughout the movie.

    Just consider the framing of the final question and all the things that the storytellers accomplished in the final five minutes of the movie:
    1. They brought in the recurring Three Musketeers thread.
    2. They twisted things with Jamal’s priceless reaction upon hearing the question and realizing that he didn’t know the answer to a lifelong theme.
    3. They utilized the final Millionaire lifeline ingeniously (the other two were also well utilized).
    4. They allowed Jamal to express belief in Salim by using him as a lifeline.
    5. They allowed Salim even greater redemption with what actually happened.
    6. They created even more tension by giving Latika the phone, not having it at the time of the call, and making her race to answer it.
    7. They created a triumphant moment when Latika answered the phone, this may have overtaken the Heath Ledger scenes in *Dark Knight* as my favorite film moment of 2008.
    8. They created a scenario in which the answer to the question was rendered meaningless to Jamal and Latika yet meaningful to all the other people watching on TV.
    9. They used the live television broadcast to set up the final confrontation between Salim and and the gangster.
    10. They finished the scene with the major characters getting what they deserved.

    Yeah, it was a fairy tale in which you saw the ultimate ending coming. But it was told in a fresh and unexpected way. Great flick.

  10. Kevin

    Kelly & I saw it last night & enjoyed it. I agree with Tony, that it was one of the more clever story-telling devices I’ve seen recently in order to neatly structure 5 or 6 critical flashbacks of a story. I did, though, feel as if too much visual time & space was confined to the game show studio. It was necessary for the plot & timing drama, but didn’t do much comparatively for me in contrast to the cinematic texture of Mumbai.

    I thought that what would have made the movie more interesting is if the ending were somehow structured so that he would know the right last answer, but intentionally choose the wrong answer & turn down the opportunity of a bazillion rupees in order to be reunited with Latika – choosing love over money. Then it would’ve been a tighter symmetry to Salim’s story, & similar to the way the 3 Musketeers story ends – how each Musketeer gets to intentionally choose their own ‘retirement’ in their lives. Of course, I’m not a screenwriter, so what would I know. I imagine it screen-tested several different ways.

    Marc had some interesting points above, about how the ‘…Millionaire’ lifeline (50/50, lifeline), options had multiple meanings, & Jamal’s faith in Salim persisted to the very end by being his ‘lifeline’ (i.e, the only phone # he knew), but as it turned out, his ‘lifeline’ ended up becoming Latika.

    There’s some reference to bathtub martyrdom – the painting of Marat’s assassination in his bath by Jean David, etc. I’d wondered about some reference to the 3 Musketeers, but I don’t think there was one. Maybe someone else knows it.

    I didn’t know much about the movie before we went (except about the award nominations), so I wasn’t sure if I was watching a Bollywood movie or not until the ending credits when, as Penny said above, ‘let the dancing begin!’ Bollywood cracks me up.

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