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Laramie Movie Scope:
Slumdog Millionaire

A big, vibrant, moving movie hybrid

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 28, 2009 -- This vibrant, moving story from India is big on suspense and romance. The whole story is set around a game show and police interrogation. Police want to know how a poor boy from the slums, Jamal Malik (played by Dev Patel) could possibly know all the answers he's given on the Indian version of the popular game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” After beatings and torture the police find out he doesn't know all the answers, just the ones he's been asked, and there is a dramatic story behind each one of those answers. These stories form the fabric of this cleverly-written film.

This kid isn't educated in the traditional sense, but he's got street smarts, and he's not in it for the money. He got on the game show for the love of a woman, Latika (Freida Pinto). It doesn't mean anything for him to win the show, but it just might be his destiny to win, anyway. Thus unfolds a story filled with tragedy, including anti-Muslim riots, a ruthless organized crime ring that exploits orphans in terrible ways. A brother, Salim (Madhur Mittal) teams up with Jamal to survive at such unlikely locations as the Taj Mahal after their parents are killed in a riot. Salim later chooses a life of crime and steals Latika away from Jamal, who eventually goes to work in the high-tech world of Mumbai (Bombay). The game show is Jamal's way of getting back in touch with Latika, who is a big fan of the show, but she is being held captive by a crime lord, Salim's boss. After their nomadic lives as children, Jamal and Salim both become successful, but though they live in the same city, their lives are worlds apart. The movie shows both the high-rollers of Indian society and society's outcasts living in crime and poverty.

This film is funny, tragic, romantic and moving. It even has a big Bollywood dance scene at the end. It's got the whole package. It looks a lot like a Bollywood movie, but this film is actually directed by Englishman Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “The Beach,” “28 Days Later” and “Millions”), with Loveleen Tandan listed a co-director in India. It shows the same sweep, romance, oversized drama and color of a Bollywood film, but it also has the intricate plot and well-written dialog of the best Hollywood and independent films. This is an unusual hybrid of film styles. It is also upbeat (despite some real tragic elements) and likable in a very infectious way. It is almost impossible not to like it. It is the best of both worlds, drawing on the finest of Indian and Hollywood traditions. It rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2009 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)