DVD Release Date:  March 31, 2009
Theatricl Release Date:  November 12, 2008 (limited)
Rating:  R (for some violence, disturbing images and language)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time:  120 min.
Director:  Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
Actors:  Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Irfan Kahn, Madhur Mittal, Anil Tiwari, Anil Kapoor

Director Danny Boyle made a splash in the 1990s with Trainspotting, a harrowing but energetic film about the perils of drug addiction. Following a couple of poorly received films (The Beach, A Life Less Ordinary), he directed an instant classic in an entirely different genre—horror—with the zombie story 28 Days Later. Rather than direct the sequel to that film (28 Weeks Later), Boyle turned his attention to Millions, an imaginative film centered on a child. He followed that with another wildly different film—the science fiction story Sunshine.

Now Boyle, working with Indian director Loveleen Tandan, has delivered something that is, once again, altogether different from his earlier work. Slumdog Millionaire, an uplifting story about a young man triumphing on an Indian game show, is a colorful, vibrant film that reaffirms Boyle as one of the more interesting filmmakers working today. The film, which was rapturously received at film festivals prior to its commercial opening, is not quite as good as some of the early hype indicated, but it’s an uplifting crowd-pleaser that should satisfy most audience members. However, those audience members should be adults, not children, owing to some of the film’s dark undertones and its “R” rating.

Dev Patel stars as Jamal, a game-show contestant who, in the film’s early moments, is poised to win the top prize on India’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The pressure mounts with each correct answer Jamal gives, but when time runs out on the cusp of his final question, requiring him to leave the studio overnight, he is forcibly interrogated by an investigator (Irfan Kahn) who demands to know whether Jamal is cheating. When his torture of Jamal fails to break the game-show contestant, the interrogator listens as Jamal explains his upbringing.

Jamal, a Muslim, loses his mother during a religious riot that leaves him to fend for himself, along with his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) and a young girl, Latika (Freida Pinto). These “three musketeers” experience immense hardships in an orphanage, where the man in charge gouges out the eyes of some of the orphans because blind beggars bring in more money. The boys break free of the orphanage, but Latika is left behind.

Jamal pines after Latika and spends years trying to track her down. He becomes a “chai wallah” (a deliverer of beverages) at a telemarketing firm, while Salim becomes a gun-wielding gangster. After Jamal learns that Latika has also become tangled in the gangster’s web, he determines to rescue her.

Slumdog Millionaire is primarily entertainment, but it does not lack for social commentary. Reunited with Salim in their later teens, the brothers look over the slum they once inhabited, now transformed into a series of skyscrapers—a picture of India’s transformation into a modern-day commerce center. And yet, younger people are still taken advantage of, and a life of crime and exploitation still can ensnare the most vulnerable members of society.