"Slumdog Millionaire" Blu-ray Review
April 08, 2009 by James Harvey
Best Picture, eh? Well, I definitely understand why. A movie that definitely keeps you hooked in, it builds to an almost excruciating finale, one that is impossible to turn away from. I won't bill this movie as anything remotely original, as it's the same old story we've seen. But, what Slumdog Millionaire has going for it is how it's a fresh spin on a story we know, and how it actually keeps you on the edge of your seat. You know how this movie will turn out, but, for a few moments, you're convinced it could go another way, and you actually hope it doesn't. A movie like this brings you into the lives of the characters and, until those final credits roll, you care to see how things turn out.
Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika (Freida Pinto), the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show's questions. Each chapter of Jamal's increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the show's seemingly impossible questions. But one question remains a mystery: what is this young man with no apparent desire for riches really doing on the game show?
A disjointed and sometimes tragic tale of romance, Slumdog Millionaire is definitely not the movie I was expecting. It's a tale of romance set against some of the grittiest and hardest living put to screen. Two characters, meant to be together, struggle against all odds. That's Slumdog Millionaire in a nutshell, and it's probably one of the best love stories told in recent years. It can be hard to watch at times, and it can be so difficult to understand where these people are coming from or why they make the decisions they do, but as Latika and Jamal struggle to find each other, it becomes an epic tale of love.
Aside from a fairly riveting storyline, what really pulls the viewer into Slumdog Millionaire is the depiction of how many children in Mumbai live. It's a stunning juxtaposition and a strong idea that we see one character, who's been through so much hell in his life, full of exuberance and optimism as he tries to reunite with the woman he loves. Seeing such a bright idea placed over such a dark backdrop is a great idea on the part of director Danny Boyle, one who I never thought would direct a movie such as this. Of course, upon seeing the movie, Boyle directing this movie actually does seem to fit. His style does help tell the rather dingy story quite well, and very little is glossed over. We get to see some very dark, very tragic stuff and the camera does not shy away. Boyle's graphic depiction of this tough life-style only further fuels the two leads as they hope to break free from the tragic life of slum children.
You can't help but cheer for Jamal's resistance as he battles against the forces that even claim his brother, as those who rule the slum try to make Jamal one of their errand boys and part of the cycle of violence that grips the area. And all of this is staged around his appearance on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, which, at first, seems like a gimmick for the movie to tell Jamal's story, but, as the movie progresses, becomes a mere backdrop until the final moments of the movie. It's a smart framing devise that, thankfully, once Boyle introduces it for us, knows how to bring it back some and then bring it forward for the big pay-off moments in the movie. Framing the movie around Who Wants to be a Millionaire? could have gotten tiring, and could have even hurt the movie, but Boyle's use of a disjointed timeline really makes it all work.
Patel and Pinto are great as Jamal and Lakita, two souls destined to be one, and their story really drives the movie. These two are perfect for the roles and are instantly believable. In fact, their work in the movie is uttering stand-out, coming out above the rest. That's not to say everyone else does poor work, everyone in this movie does amazing work, but Patel's innocent looking Jamal and Pinto's gorgeous Lakita are picture-perfect for this tale of romance and tragedy. We are reminded again and again of the atrocities found in the slums of Mumbai, both on screen and on the faces of these two great characters.
A truly moving and marvelous film, Slumdog Millionaire is a stunning movie worthy of its praise and heaps of awards. Whether it's Boyle's tremendous work on this film, showing that he's truly a genius when it comes to the art of directing, or the perfect casting, Slumdog Millionaire is a movie one won't forget too. It's a movie that, even though hard to watch at times, is hard to turn away from. The story is hypnotic and the characters ones you can't help but root for. As they trudge through an oppressive life, yearning for something better, we ache for the to find their salvation. And, amazingly, in such a dark place, we find optimism and an insightful, revealing look at the world that many of us will never see, and how everyone, no matter who or where you are, aches for the same thing. A movie you won't soon forget, Slumdog Millionaire comes Highly Recommended.
Fox Home Entertainment has given Slumdog Millionaire a respectable release on two-disc Blu-ray release. Once you start up the Blu-ray disc, get past the main menu and jump into the movie, you'll be treated to a solid video and audio transfer. With a host of different film and video cameras. the video transfer can look weak at times, but don't be fooled. The transfer and crisp and clear, staying true to the host of different filming styled used to catch this time-jumping love story. There's no problems with the transfer at all, coming out absolutely perfect even if, at times, it looks anything but. The cinematography of the movie plays a key role in the story, one that becomes readily apparent as the pushes forward. The audio is great, featuring a rather unique 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that mixes both English and Hindi dialogue, representing the slums of Mumbai. It's a surprisingly immersive audio transfer that does put you into atmosphere of the movie.
Moving on to the bonus features, Fox has given Slumdog Millionaire a good, but not great, selection of extras. First up is a feature-length audio commentary with Director Danny Boyle and Actor Dev Patel, followed up by another commentary with Producer Christian Colson and writer Simon Beaufoy, both of which are enjoyable though the one helmed by Boyle and Patel is the superior of the two. Following that we get a host of deleted scenes most of which are interesting but neither really add nor take away from the film's story in any way. There's also a great documentary called "Slumdog Dreams" that manages to be more than a simple "Making of" feature and actually adds some real depth and insight into the making of this great little film. Following that up is a closer look at the "Toilet Scene" in the movie, the "Manjha" Indian short film, a music video, and the theatrical trailer, all of which are nice little additions to round off the collection.
The second disc is, of course, just a Digital Copy.
Overall, as a whole, Fox Home Entertainment's release of Slumdog Millionaire is a great first edition of the movie, as I have no doubt we'll be seeing a more in-depth release of this movie down the line. Thankfully, while the extras aren't amazing, they are informative enough to make this edition of Slumdog Millionaire worth picking up on Blu-ray. Slimdog Millionaire is a surprising and truly gripping movie, full of surprises that manage to make what would've been a straightforward story in anyone-else's hand a true masterpiece. And while the home video release isn't as solid as the movie, it's still a great package that is worth picking up, coming Highly Recommended. A movie that definitely lives up to the hype,Slumdog Millionaire will undoubtedly surprise you with a story that's more than your typical tale of romance.
Slumdog Millionaire is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.