In case you haven't heard, Slumdog Millionaire is great. So good, in fact, that I could not let my good friend Cole have the final word on the matter. I've been rather hard on 2008. Mainly, because the studios have been holding off on all of the best films for the last month of the year. Really, guys? We couldn't mix in Frost/Nixon in September? Milk in October? It's been a while since I've had my socks knocked off in a theater. But here, finally, is a movie that is alive with love, music and spirit.
All shades and colors of India, the bustling cities and garbage dumps, those who occupy mansions and the poverty-stricken living in shacks -- all of it's on display in Danny Boyle's film, which is, perhaps, his best to date. Here is a movie where the story and the images chemically converge and burst through the screen (look for cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and editor Chris Dickens to get nominations). This story could easily have taken place in America, but the culture shift is what makes the film all the more interesting and fresh.
The story is simple. Jamal is one question away from winning it all on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? But Jamal -- with his older brother Salim -- grew up in the slums. He had no formal education. He obviously must be cheating. And so the film is filled with flashbacks so that we see how exactly Jamal knew the answers to the questions. We see him as a very little boy and we follow his life journey until he finds himself in the unlikely position of being on the popular television show. Very early along the way he meets Latika and he never forgets her: their relationship is the heart and soul of Slumdog Millionaire.
You know when critics say a movie is "triumphant?" Here, the film really does triumph. It triumphs over convention. It triumphs over sentimentality. You will feel emotional in the final act and the film will have earned every moment of it. It's earned because despite some of its darker and rougher edges, this is a fun film. And by the time the credits roll, and Danny Boyle's ode to Bollywood takes over, you will already have made your decision to stay in your seat. Yes, this is not only one of the year's best films -- it's also one of the most entertaining.
That isn't to say it's perfect. I didn't particularly care for the handling of Salim's character in the last act. I don't have a problem with the result, just the approach. This is a fairytale, so nicely wrapped isn't the issue -- a little too much gloss perhaps is. But this is a minor squabble for what really is one of the year's best. I've loved so few movies this year. This is certainly one of them.