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Slumdog Millionaire

Fox // R // March 31, 2009
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted April 5, 2009 | E-mail the Author
Jama Malik is one question away from winning 20 million
rupees.

 


How did he do it?


 


A:  He cheated


B:  He's lucky


C: He's a genius


D:  It is written





The
Movie:



 


Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of the Oscars.  It
seems that, more often than not, when one
film sweeps the awards it's never a great film. 
Entertaining, good, and finely crafted, yes, but rarely great.style=""> 
(Looking back, did Titanic or
Gladiator
really deserve all those awards?)  This
year was the exception however.  Slumdog
Millionaire
won an amazing eight
Oscars are really did deserve them.  A
decade from now the film will be considered director Danny Boyle's
masterpiece
and still widely viewed.  Fox has
released this amazing film on Blu-ray with copious extras and a top
notch image
and great soundtrack.


 


style="width: 400px; height: 224px;" alt=""
src="http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/images/reviews/81/1238960028_6.jpg">




Jamal Malik is an uneducated product of the slums of w:st="on">Mumbai.style="">  Yet when he goes on the Indian version of style="font-style: italic;">Who
Wants to be a Millionaire he breezes through the questions
making it all the
way to the final round before the show's time is up. 
When doctors, lawyers, and other educated
people can't come close to what Jamal has done, the host has the police
question the young man.  After a night of
torture where he refuses to confess, a detective finally sits him down
and goes
through a recording of the show, question by question. 
Jamal explains how he knew the answers and in
doing so tell his life story one of extreme poverty, crime, violence,
and even
love.


 


As a young boy, Jamal and his older brother, Salim see there
mother murdered by a mob for being a Muslim and from that moment on
they are on
their own.  Teaming up with another
orphan, Latika, the three survive by their wits, often being protected
by the
older Salim.  When Latika becomes
separated from the brothers, Jamal vows to find her, and though years
pass and
tragedies befall them all, Jamal never forgets the young girl he's know
for
most of his life and refuses to give up looking for her.


 


style="width: 400px; height: 224px;" alt=""
src="http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/images/reviews/81/1238960028_2.jpg">




The plot for this film would have fit in well in a Dickens
novel, but the unique style that the story unfolds, mostly told during
flashbacks as Jamal is being interrogated, is what propels the movie
along and
makes the two hour + running time seem much shorter. 
There are actually several plots unfolding at
the same time, but since the film is subtle and assumes that the
viewers are
intelligent, it doesn't bang you over the head with its MESSAGE.

 


The most obvious story line follows how Jamal got as far as
he did on the game show and tells the story of his violent and
unpleasant
life.  This shows the horrors of being an
orphan in a developing country where (according to the movie) children
are
intentionally maimed to make them more sympathetic when they are
begging.  Parts of the film are hard to
watch, make no
mistake about that, but it's this horror that makes Jamal's struggle so
engrossing.


 


The more interesting plot line as far as I was concerned was
the exploration of the two brothers and how the events that shaped
their lives
made them radically different people. 
They both witnessed horrific and terrible things, and this made
Salim, the
older brother, tough, cruel, and nearly emotionless. 
These were traits he had to take on if he was
going to protect his younger brother, which he did though not
necessarily in a
nice way.


 


style="width: 400px; height: 224px;" alt=""
src="http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/images/reviews/81/1238960028_5.jpg">




These same events on the other hand made Jamal sympathetic
and kind.  He had empathy for people's
pain, having been through worse himself. 
Though this made him a nice person, it's not a trait that helps
survival
and Salem
often
had to make tough decisions for both of them.


 


One of the great tragedies of this film is Salim's story,
and how from a very young age he's put on a track that leads to no good.style="">  When Jamal decides to search for the missing
Latika, the pragmatic Salim knows that no good will come of the search
but goes
along with it anyway.  This lead him to a
string of choices where only one will lead to he and Jamal surviving,
but it
will also push him deeper and deeper into trouble.


 


Finally there's the mystery of why Jamal is so unexcited by
his winnings and so calm on the show.  A
point that is missed by some critics of the film.  How
could it be that someone who grew up in
abject poverty could not care about winning a fortune and continue to
risk it
when the odds seem against him?


 


style="width: 400px; height: 224px;" alt=""
src="http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/images/reviews/81/1238960028_3.jpg">




In addition to the excellent script and award winning visual
style (more on that in the video section) the film features bravura
performances by the entire cast.  The
youngest child actors were simply amazing, and the adult leads were
excellent
as well.  Dev Patel (Jamal) resisted the
temptation to overplay his role, which would have been easy to do given
the
script, and created a subtle but strong character that really makes the
film.  Another stand out performance was
given by Anil Kapoor, the slimy game show host. 
The parallels between the host and Salim are striking and the
'battle'
between he and Jamal makes for interesting drama.


 


When all is said and done this is a magnificent film. 
Told in a unique way with an arresting visual
style, Slumdog Millionaire is an intelligent and engrossing film that
truly
deserves all of the public and critical praise that it has received.


 


The style="font-weight: bold;">Blu-ray Discstyle="font-weight: bold;">:





 



Video:


 


The AVC/1080p encoded disc presents the film with its
original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it looks very good. 
The film was created in an unusual, stylized
manner that worked very well:  the
flashback scenes were shot on Fuji
film and the present day segments were recorded on high definition
video
tape.  This works as a nice visual cue as
to when events are taking place.  The
past sequences were a bit overexposed, with whites tending to run a
little hot
and colors are slightly washed out. 
There was also a fairly strong amount of grain in the low light
scenes
such as when the young Jamal, his brother, and Latika are in the empty
hotel at
night.  This is how the film was intended
to look, and contrasted to the present day segments it works well.

 


In the digital video segments the blacks were a tad off, not
quite as deep as I would have liked them to be, but the lines are
generally
sharper and the level of detail is a bit higher.  On
the digital side of things there's nothing
to complain about.  The powers that be
resisted the urge to monkey with the film by adding edge enhancement or
digitally manipulating the film, which I very good, and compression
artifacts
are not present.


 


Overall this is a very nice looking disc.  It
gives viewers a real taste for what the
slums of India
must be like, the dirt and grime are so realistic you can almost taste
it.


 


Audio:


 


The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack is also very nice with
only a few small defects.  The full
soundstage is used throughout the film, putting the viewer right in the
center
of the action.  The chase scene at the
beginning where the kids are being pursued by the cops has the sounds
of Mumbai
coming from all
corners of the room. Likewise with the background music; it has a very
nice
dynamic range and is thrown to all the speakers so that viewers are
immersed in
the sound.  The lows are represented well
and though this won't give your sub a workout like an action film
there's
plenty of reason to be thankful that you invested in the low frequency
speaker.


 


The only real problem I had with the audio track was with
the levels in some sections.  In a few
scenes the music was so loud that I had to turn it down, while in
others it was
hard to make out what people were saying when they were whispering
without
turning the volume up a couple of notches. 
In any case this was a relatively minor matter.


 


Extras:


 


This disc has a great collection of bonus material that
really adds a lot to the film.  First off
is a great commentary track with director Danny Boyle and star Dev
Patel.  This is one of the better
commentaries I've
heard in a while; fun, informative, and lively. 
The pair talk about the trial of filming on location (and why
they
didn't film in the real red district) and share several interesting
behind the
scenes anecdotes.  Well worth listening
to.  The second commentary track features
producer Christian Colson and writer Simon Beaufoy. 
I found this track good though a little dry, especially
when compared to the first commentary.  There was some new
information about the production and filming presented which makes it
worth listening to.


 


There are 12 deleted scenes (all in SD) on the disc that run
over half an hour all together.  Usually
I find that there were good reasons for deleting scenes, but in this
case I
felt that they should have all been included in the theatrical cut.style="">  These scenes plug some of the plot holes that
are in the final cut of the movie.  After
Jamal confesses to being present at a murder, why don't the police
charge him
with being an accessory, especially since they are looking for a reason
to
arrest him?  Why did the two brothers
suddenly leave the Taj Mahal where they were making good money scamming
tourists?  Why was the game show host so
antagonistic towards Jamal?  The cut
scenes answer (or at least imply answers) to all those questions and
more.  This should be the first thing you
watch
after seeing the film.


 


The main featurette is Slumdog
Dreams: Danny Boyle and the Making of Slumdog Millionaire
(SD), a
23 minute
look at the production.  I only wish that
more making-of pieces were like this. 
They keep the back-patting to a minimum and look at the actual
production. It was quite refreshing.


 


That would be more than enough for most disc, but there's
more.  They also include a 5-minute look
at a single scene, From Script to Screen:
The Toilet Scene
(one of the most amusing segments in the film), a
"short" Indian
film: Manjha which runs for 41 minutes and my not be everyone's cup of
tea, and
a music video Bombaystyle="">
Liquid Dance.  The disc is rounded
out with the American theatrical trailer (HD), and the European
theatrical
trailer (SD).


 


A second disc contains a digital copy of the film for iPods
and such.  (Are there really a lot of
people who have invested in Blu-ray set ups and then watch movies on a
3" iPod
screen?)


 


Final Thoughts:


 


An arresting film that will have you glued to your seat for
its whole two hour running time, Slumdog
Millionaire
is was rightfully awarded the Academy Award for Best
Picture
(among many other awards) last year.  Now
that it's available on Blu-ray with strong A/V quality and copious
extras,
there's no reason not to add this disc to your library. 
Highly recommended.

 


 


Note: The
images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not
necessarily
represent the image quality on the disc.




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