Friday, December 5, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire at the Wadsworth Theatre

Yesterday I attended a screening of Danny Boyle's new flick 'Slumdog Millionaire' with a friend, which was followed by a Q&A moderated by Taylor Hackford with Danny Boyle himself and the cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, editor Chris Dickens and Indian superstar composer A.R. Rahman. Danny Boyle is the dream director behind movies like '28 Days Later', 'Trainspotting', and 'Sunshine'.

The invitation came at the last minute. My brain had stopped working (as tends to happen on a Thursday), and therefore that it was a Danny Boyle movie didn't quite register until we met up just outside the theatre and I again asked 'What are we watching?'

Normally I'm iffy about screenings, especially on a work night, but I trust Kevin. We met in college and suffered through a SCIFI course that came as part of our general elective requirements. Our teacher was a pervert. No seriously. The class consisted of us sitting in class and him showing us movies in fast forward. And he would fast foward to EVERY sex scene in the movie. It's how I watched Dracula. And Bladerunner. The good thing about that class was that I met Kevin - who is a fellow scifi geek in arms. He does Comic-Con. We talk Trek. And we love movies. And when it comes to movies, Kevin never disapoints.

Still, it was seven pm and I had yet to eat dinner. Kevin looked exhausted, and as we sat together in the crowded theatre (which was IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND) playing catch up, he relayed to me his reasons he now hated Vegas (they stole his car. he found it in San Diego. Long story.). So we were tired, hungry, and unsure if we were going to stay for the Q&A. I'm guessing the hosts had an idea much of the crowd was the same way, because they very kindly informed us that after the Q&A there would be desserts. Way to bribe us.

"What do you think?" he asked. "Do you want to stay?"
"Depends on how good the movie is," I replied.
"Sounds like a plan," he responded, and the theatre dimmed.

We stayed for the Q&A. Because this movie was awesome. Taylor Hackford, however, should never moderate again. Talented man, but he just did not stop talking. At one point he started going on and on about a Polish movie. Which is nice you know, but... let Mr. Boyle and the three other men speak too, please.

Based on the novel 'Q&A', Slumdog Millionaire follows the story of an eighteen year old orphan who is a contestant on India's 'Who Wants To be A Millionaire'. He is one question away from winning the grand prize - but how does a kid from the slums with no education get all the right answers to some of the most obscure questions? The police, who suspect him of cheating, want to find out.

And so we begin our journey with Jamal, as we venture back into his life and discover the clues to the answers that would come to him that fateful night. We meet his brother Salim, who challenges the violence that inhabits their life with more violence. And we also meet his true love, fellow orphan Latika, with whom he is desperate to reunite.

The movie is, in my mind, Danny Boyle's best movie. It's completely breathtaking from start to finish. Everything, from the music to the performances to that perfect shot he always seems to get, weaves together a story told in flashback and flashforwards, and what's more, it makes you ache.

Three different actors of varying ages play the three main characters (brothers Jamal and Salim, and fellow orphan Latika) throughout the movie. They're splendidly cast. There is no weak link in the six actors, which is astounding because of the youngest trio, two were children cast from the slums of India (And interesting aside to that I learned in the Q&A - these two children were placed in school and were given a large sum of money placed in their trust, to be given to them only when they finish school at the age of sixteen). It's an incredibly brilliant move, despite the difficulty they must have had casting, because it immediately reorientates the audience. So much of the story is told with sudden shifts of time, each distinctive face puts us immediately into the exact moment we need to be.

The movie appears to be about a gameshow, but that is only the vehicle. Instead, at it's heart Slumdog Millionaire proves to be the ultimate fairy tale and lovestory. Classic elements as old as time abound (true love, cain & abel, loss of family), and yet the movie does what a movie SHOULD do - take you to a place you've never seen before and make you feel like you've been there all along.

The film is a joyful experience that cuts into the heart of even the most cynical viewer. Fantastic film, and worth seeing in the theatre.

Slumdog Millionare Trailer

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