Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Slumdog Millionaire

Yes, yours truly has finally took his spare time to go out and see the film that everyone has been touting "the best of the year." Talk like that is a great amount of hype for this film, what with The Dark Knight long being the film that kept that crown. I certainly thought it completely neccessary to see this film, not least because of the attention that it has been receiving, but because I am a big fan of Danny Boyle as a film-maker. In my opinion, he is the modern day Kubrick, with an impressive range of films spanning different topic matter, and he is most certainly Britain's best current film-maker. So here is Slumdog Millionaire, his new picture, which has been a huge success, rather ironic considering at one point the film was rumoured to be heading straight-to-dvd. Okay, if you don't know the story already, it is the ultimate underdog story, Jamal, a young man from the slums of India, gets the opportunity to be a contestant on the Indian version of Who Want To Be A Millionaire, and gets to the final question, but is arrested under suspicion of cheating. Now, the film uses the dramatic technique of flashback to tell us the story as to how Jamal came to know the answers to each of the specific questions. This is a very risky way of creating a film, because either it will work out very well or just turn out to disconnect the audience from the emotion of the overall piece. Personally, I think that the techinque is pulled off well enough. The direction is rather precise and well balanced in that sense, for it seems rather seamless in the way this technique is pulled off. Each of the scenes end at the appropriate moment, and the infrequent change in time does not seem to interrupt in the unveiling of the story. This is Danny Boyle once again pulling off a good job as a film-maker, proving himself once again as a great film-maker. Also, it must be acknowledged that he has collaborated well with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, whose signature digital camera style previously seen in Boyles' 28 Days Later and Millions works well and is appropriate for the film, particularly in the scenes set in the Dhavri slums. Also, a lot of word has been spread regarding the performance of the relatively unknown lead Dev Patel, most famous for his work in Channel 4's Skins. Patel gives a very mature and understated performance for a young man of his age, only a year older than myself. His portrayal of Jamal is not just some schmuck in love, but he comes across as genuinely likeable in his performance. However, despite his great performance, I personally feel that the contributions of the young child actors involved in a great amount of the film deserve to be acknowledged. The majority of the children in these scenes are actually from Dhavri slums, and their naturalistic performances help lend an authenticity to the film, which is hard to find, considering the rather fableistic Pan's Labrinyth-esque approach of telling the story. Also, a number of people have criticised the music in the film. I do not share this negative criticism, and I believe that the soundtrack/score kept a great degree of the emotion of the story while feeling distinctly Indian from the stereotypical outsider's perspective. From what has been read so far, it would be easy to assume that what we have on our hand's is another Thin White Dude certified masterpiece. While I certainly enjoyed the film for it's admirable qualities and merits (of which there are many), there are a number of key issues which keep me from painting it with that brush. For starters, personally, I feel that while the story is certainly well told, and yes, it is a feel-good film and there is only so much that they can do, I felt that the story was at times too schmaltzy, and dare I say, predictable, even whenever it clearly wasn't meant to be predictable. I mean let's face it, you must be an idiot if you don't know the ending going in. I don't mean to be devil's advocate here and I hope to god I haven't broken my cardinal sin (don't spoil movies), but it is obvious. In the other scenes, we do have a feeling of what is going to happen, and for me it just felt like it was covered nice fluffy feathers to make me feel that this is original. Also, and this has made me cross, and maybe it's just me being emotionally dry or something, I felt that while the film certainly is gripping, by no means at any real stage did I develop any great emotional attachment to the film. Like I said, gripping story, but it is certainly for me not what it was hyped up to be. For a change I am actually lost for words with regards to the reason for this. Perhaps it was the constant change of actors, I really don't know. I am not going to make excuses for my emotions, all I know is that I certainly wasn't feeling much emotionally here. Most certainly for me, Slumdog Millionaire is a very good film with many admirable qualities to see, and I can see why many people will and do enjoy this film, but I really did not feel emotionally connected to the material onscreen and thus the film I do not feel is deserving enough to be called a masterpiece by my standards.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.1/10

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