"Slumdog Millionaire" is "The Usual Suspects" meets "It’s a Wonderful Life," with a strong dose of 21st century Charles Dickens. It is also the best movie of the year and one of the most exhilarating cinematic viewing experiences I’ve had in the last decade.
Over the last few weeks, whenever someone approaches me and says, "What movie should I see?", I have two words: "Slumdog Millionaire." (Unless the person looks like a drooling fool. Then my two words are, "Bride Wars.")
The story begins near the end of the journey and time-jumps from vignette to vignette, as Jamal (Dev Patel), an uneducated but quick 18-year-old from the ghettos of Mumbai, defies all odds by climbing the monetary ladder toward a 20 million rupee fortune on the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." The host and the cops think he has to be cheating, but when Jamal is subjected to a brutal interrogation by the authorities, he explains exactly how and why he just might legitimately know the answers.
Directed with kinetic style by Danny Boyle and featuring brilliant performances from a cast of actors unknown to American audiences, "Slumdog Millionaire" plunges us soul-deep into a world of unimaginable poverty and breathtaking beauty. Many of the early scenes are tough to watch, as young Jamal, his tougher older brother and other children suffer great losses and are the victims of horrific cruelty. I’ve had friends text me during the first hour of the film saying, "Why did you send me to this movie?" An hour later, they’re texting to say, "Thank you for sending me to this movie."
In addition to Patel, the standouts include Anil Kapoor as the slimy host of "Millionaire," and Freida Pinto as the girl Jamal has loved since they were children. This is the first film for the former model and TV personality, and it is a stunning debut. She just might be the most beautiful woman in movies today.
And "Slumdog Millionaire" is the most memorable film of 2008.