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Wick's Review

Created Nov 30, 2008 06:13PM PST • Edited Feb 17, 2023 07:13AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    Slumdog Millionaire couldn’t be more of the moment if it was named President-elect Barack Obama: a Mumbai movie that delivers world class entertainment about a Muslim media sensation. The three kids at its center aren’t religious or radical, though their profound victimization makes it easy to believe religious radicalization could thrive in their environment. It doesn’t.

    SlumMill’s basic proposition is as old as Hollywood: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be on the edge of your seat – again, and again, and again.

  3. Great 4.0

    The three kids are played by three different actors: a tot, a tween and a teen, all nine flawless performers. Amongst the eldest trio, Dev Patel delivers an everyman hero for the ages, while Freida Pinto effortlessly heats up the screen as the girl-next-door-to-die-for.

    Madhur Mittal looks and acts like the lady killing thug his character has become.

  4. Male Stars Great 4.0
  5. Female Stars Great 4.0
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Perfect 5.0

    A true-heart love story at its core, the devotion of Jamal and Latika stirs the soul every bit as much as that of Temudgin and Börte in Mongol. But love isn’t SlumMill’s only universal touchstone: It also nails the globalized media culture and desire for wealth typified by Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, a sensation in India as in dozens of other countries.

    Funny and touching yes, yet SlumMill isn’t for the faint of heart since it shows unimaginably craven cruelty while also playing out a fraternal divergence nearly as stark as that of Cain and Abel (a story common to Islam and JudeoChristianity). The two brothers here – Salim the Bad Seed and Jamal the True – become street urchins at an early age, dubbing themselves the Three Musketeers when they bring the sweet and beautiful Latika into their ad hoc family unit. Together and apart they survive slumdog life – living in garbage dumps, becoming beggars, and then falling into the clutches of real life child catchers (silly fantasy in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, horrifying reality in Mumbai).

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0

    Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan demonstrate how adroit story construction and astute editing can make a non-FX film a magical storytelling mechanism. Interweaving the near past, the way past, the immediate past and the present, they present a tableau that is at once easy to follow yet intriguingly complex.

  10. Play Perfect 5.0

    Pithy, perfect lines throughout -

    • “Kiss me” to close the film
    • “God is great” as the bad seed brother revels in his blaze-of-glory death
    • “Always tells the truth” as a description of Jamal the true heart hero’s way with words.

    Plus the movie has a delightful LOL scene that dawns on the audience slowly, hits quickly, and then plays out nicely. Suffice it to say that while potty humor is common to many movies these days, none go all in – or hit comic paydirt – like Jamal the younger in SlumMill.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    Worldbeat Indian style. The Bollywood dance number over the closing credits is a lighthearted treat.

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    The slums of Mumbai are stupefyingly large to Western eyes.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.1

    Gird yourself for seriously cruel violence inflicted by powerful adults on innocent children.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.7
  16. Violence Brutal 2.7
  17. Rudeness Salty 2.0
  18. Glib 1.2

    While SlumMill doesn’t speak directly to the terrorist abominations that just occurred in Mumbai, seeing it now (the weekend of the attacks) feels like a political act, somewhat like I felt seeing The Kite Runner the day Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. Unlike most political acts, this one is instantly rewarding.

    Postscript – January 3, 2009, one month after posting this review: I saw the movie and wrote the review the weekend of the Mumbai attacks, which we now know to be the work of Pakistani Islamists. While I originally noted that the slumdogs’ profound victimization makes it easy to believe that religious radicalization could thrive in their environment, the fact that the Mumbai terrorists weren’t from India reinforces the notion that poverty isn’t the primary driver of terrorism or perhaps even of religious radicalization. This insight provides yet more reason to see this of-the-moment movie.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.5
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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