Slumdog Millionaire was always one of those movies where whenever I thought about it, I kept thinking, “Oh, that just came out a few years ago.” Here I am in 2018 realizing that the film actually released in 2008. It was a movie I frequently heard about but just never got around to watching it, despite the DVD sitting on my shelf full of movies for years. However, that mistake is finally remedied.
The movie initially wasn’t what I was expecting. I knew it was some take on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, but I didn’t expect the majority of the film to be spent away from the game show. That said, I’m glad it went in that direction. The opening scene is intense and you see just how kids grow up in its Indian setting. Jamal, Salim, and Latika are the main focus of the film, with Jamal being at the forefront since he’s the one on the show.
Seeing Jamal being tortured simply for knowing the answers to a game show is simply astounding. Can you imagine going through that all because of a game? This all serves the purpose of getting us to the flashbacks, though. Jamal walks the cops through how he knows each of the answers just to prove he didn’t cheat. The movie cleverly weaves all of the answers into his life story in one that has its ups and downs, but certainly more downs.
Salim plays an important role in Jamal’s story since they’re brothers. They’re complete opposites, too. Jamal is kind to others and always wants to help, especially when it comes to Latika. Salim, though, is usually only out to help himself. In the end, he has a lot of redemption when he chooses to help Latika find her way back to Jamal. He does a lot of unsavory things throughout the film, but in the end he does what’s right and sacrifices himself for that. It’s certainly a heartbreaking moment considering how much he had been through with Jamal, even if their paths diverged later in life.
One of the standout moments of the film is during a flashback when a celebrity is flying in. Jamal is locked in the outhouse and the only way out is down: straight down into a giant pile of poop. And he jumps. Of all of the horrible things that go down in the flashbacks, this shot is one that just brings a sense of utter disgust as it’s happening, but when you see just how excited Jamal is, that disgust dissipates. It’s one of the images that stuck with me most once the movie was over. “Did he really do that?” was the only thing I kept thinking for the duration of the scene. I can’t imagine wanting a celebrity’s autograph quite that much, but it was a little thing that meant a lot to Jamal. It also showed that he’d push through no matter what the cost to him (or his cleanliness) was.
Slumdog Millionaire might not be as widely revered a film as others I’ve covered in this column, but it was certainly worth the watch. It brought an interesting structure to the story being told. Really, it wasn’t about the game show at all, but everything that lead up to that moment for Jamal. And it was quite the journey.