Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 1
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

TTHE THREE MUSKETEERS AT THE BEGINNING OF THEIR ADVENTURES: The three “slumdogs,” who whimsically called themselves the Three Musketeers, pictured here are able to enjoy a few moments of innocent play before being swept up into the difficulties of surviving to adulthood in the slums of Mumbai. When Jamal grew up (left, played by Dev Patel as an adult) he became a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.”

Slumdog Millionaire: Dev Patel Delivers as Jamal Malik, a Slumdog From Mumbai

Kam Williams

Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) was just one correct answer away from winning the grand prize of 20 million rupees on India’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire when the police were called in to question him about his extraordinary string of luck. After all, no one had ever got this far up the ladder of questions on the television game show before, and the producers doubted that this “slumdog,” a dirt-poor, uneducated orphan who grew up in the slums of Mumbai, could have come this close to winning the game without somehow cheating.

Therefore, the night before his return to the program to answer the final question, the police drag the 18-year-old down to the station in order to interrogate him. However, even after being tortured by two sadistic cops (Irfan Khan and Saurabh Shukla), Jamal matter-of-factly explains exactly how he came to know the answers to all of the obscure trivia questions he has been asked.

To prove his innocence, Jamal recounts a series of episodes in his life which show how he learned the answers to each of the questions, and which the audience sees in a series of colorful flashbacks. Surprisingly, it is revealed that he’s really hoping that the TV show will help him find his true love Latika (Freida Pinto), with whom he grew up, and is less concerned about the 20 million rupees that he stands to win.

This is the engaging story of Slumdog Millionaire, a romantic thriller from Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan. The co-directors deftly interweave three strands of Jamal’s life story into an absorbing movie that, in this critic’s opinion, deserves to be considered for Oscars.

One aspect involves Jamal’s banter and psychological warfare with the show’s unctuous emcee (Anil Kapoor) as Jamal ascends the quiz show’s ladder of questions. That badinage stands in sharp contrast to the treatment by the police, who resort to water boarding and electric shocks in order to extort a confession from him. The third part of the picture shows how the self-proclaimed “Three Musketeers,” Jamal, his older brother Salim (Madhur Mittal), and Latika, manage to survive by their wits as they grow up.

Will Jamal die while being interrogated or will he be allowed a shot at the final question? If he makes it back on the air, will he know the answer to the final question, and, finally, will he be reunited with Latika?

A dizzying, delightful spectacle that is well worth the price of a ticket, if only for the kaleidoscope of colors splashed across the screen. In addition, there’s superb acting by Dev Patel and enough tension to keep you on the edge of your seat from the beginning to the end of this spellbinding movie.

Excellent (four stars). Rated R for violence, profanity, and disturbing images. In English and Hindi with subtitles. Running time: 120 minutes. Studio: Fox Searchlight.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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