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DVD Review: Slumdog Millionaire (Blu-ray)
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Slumdog Millionaire
Blu-ray Edition
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Saurabh Shukla, Rajendranath Zutshi
Fox Home Entertainment
Release date: March 31, 2009

Life and times are tough right now, well, at least for some. Director Danny Boyle realizes this and appoints himself commander in chief as he ventures out to satisfy and revitalize the crippled and worn hearts of America. Recent years past have seen the likes of violent films with no redeeming qualities and they were received with awards (The Departed and No Country for Old Men). Kudos to the Academy for singling out this crowd-pleaser that was head-and-shoulders above the frail and weightless competition, the eight academy awards it walked away with, including Best Picture, are rightfully earned.

Though the film takes place in both old India and new, Bombay and Mumbai, there’s no questioning Boyle’s film is something of an international phenomenon. Not complacent with fixing the hearts of Americans, he creates a film that wants to embrace the entire world. When a film finds itself with a beating heart, like Slumdog Millionaire does, there isn’t any questioning involving its emotional magnificence.

Surviving what the slums of India heaves, hatred, poverty, and desperation, is human hope, doing its best to prevail against forces that don’t want individuals to succeed.

Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is an example of such a product. He’s a dreamer beyond words, a lover beyond example and a brother beyond explaining.

Patel succeeds in his first role at creating a character that’s caught in a web of morality. We meet Jamal as he’s being interrogated by police forces after being accused of cheating on India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Being one question away from becoming a millionaire, higher authorities and the show’s host (Anil Kapoor) begin to speculate his knowledge and not acknowledging his past.

Of course no young man can be so smart, right? The society in India doesn’t allow for such things, right? Jamal’s future, then, must already be written in stone, right? Boyle’s direction weaves between Jamal’s interrogation scene and the taping of the “Millionaire” show, then adds to that Jamal’s Dickensian adventures through adversity, which sheds light on why he may know some of the questions he’s being asked on the show. But when it comes to him answering the questions we realize he doesn’t care about the money or the possibility of losing all of it because what he faced in life already puts to shame the nervousness most would feel on the hot seat.

Boyle is going against the inevitable by how he approaches this material that’s written by Simon Beaufoy. That means he prolongs what the audience already knows is going to happen. At times he prevails with the aid of his hyperkinetic camera that fuses romance and betray
al almost seamlessly throughout the discouraging and majestic landscapes of India.

Another way Boyle keeps our minds off of the inevitable is his ability to tell a story. The flashback scenes of Dickensian decent contain characters that are as interesting as Jamal. Jamal’s brother, Salim (Tanay Hemant Chheda), joins Jamal in a childhood that has a reliable investment in survival. Their journey is heartfelt and sympathetic. When the two encounter Latika (Frieda Pinto), a beautiful little girl who will evolve in time to be the girl Jamal desires for, their lives will forever be changed. The two amigos have advanced to form the Three Musketeers. Pinto has star quality written all over her. Boyle’s camera sees that as well. It shoots her in a manner that displays her as a Greek god. She’s that pretty and she can deliver the goods. Paired with Patel, the two create an on-screen romance that is trying to survive amidst all the reality that wants failure and nothing less.

An unrelenting honesty is consuming the audience, an honesty that is near the apex of representing the highest authenticity of realism. Boyle is encouraged, though, to force up on the film fantastical chances which in result bogs the film down, leading to scenes that feel forced and unnatural.

Slumdog Millionaire has a choreographed style of shaping events that leads the film to having a precise calculation. Despite that, the film rises to the occasion in pleasing the audience and creating an elaborate piece of work that brings to the table an ideological piece of sociology; people living in poverty reduced to mere objects that can’t possibly obtain worthy status amongst the casual people, no matter what they accomplish.

Boyle is magnetized toward films that defy their typical genre. His 28 Days Later, Trainspotting, and Millions are films that show where his indulgences lay; in altering their conventional forms so they fit his style. With Slumdog he takes the feel-good-story and approaches it with romance, evil, lust, and colorful clarity that pops off the screen. His claim to fame with this film, though, is his determination in bottling up life and showing to the audience what it’s actually capable of.

High-Def Picture- Director Danny Boyle used many different kinds of film stocks along with multiple cameras in order to achieve that “˜perfect’ visual quality he was going for. As great as he gets the picture to look it is a true wonder how this film almost descended to the realms of straight-to-DVD. His picture quality remains constant throughout. But it really finds vitality in the outdoors of India. Whether he’s filming the garbage stifling slums of Dubai or the mega city Mumbai, each of them possess the same visual quality and yet, thanks to the hi-res shots, viewers will be encompassed by their distinctive environments. Outside scenes are amongst the best I have watched on Blu-Ray, containing ferocity of life. One fastidious scene of India caught my eye in a jolt. It showed a crowd of people cramped together like sardines, and I was able to almost make out the characteristics of every individual present in this one scene. I did notice, though, a muddle or two in some scenes taking place in doors that were grainy and rough. Especially noticeable while Jamal is on television show. One particular thing I loved about this transfer was the fact that the movie’s night scenes never once contained a grimace of distorting quality. They were as clear as the day shots, and that is something to behold with high-definition transfers.

Special Features

Audio Commentaries: There are two of them. One is with director Danny Boyle and actor Dev Patel. If you have watched the numerous award shows last season you will be able to skip this commentary because all the two do is rave how the film was made and how fun it was in making it in the process. The other commentary is by producer Christian Colson and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy. Never once does either commentary track exemplify the film’s shaky history, that which “Slumdog” could’ve been a straight-to-DVD shelfer.

Theatrical Trailer

Music Video: “Bombay Liquid Dance”- SD (3mins): Real-life Mumbai (without any actors) is shown with music playing in the background.

“Slumdog Dreams: Danny Boyle & The Making of “˜Slumdog Millionaire'”– HD (23mins): The film’s production team (Boyle, Beaufoy and Colson) are interviewed as well as the cast. Behind the scenes footage also makes its way into this feature.

Slumdog Countdown– HD (6mins): Don’t feel like watching the entire movie? Easy. Just pop on this feature and watch a quick run-down of the entire movie played out to some cool music.

Blu-Ray Exclusive Special Features

“˜Manjha’: A Short Indian Film– SD (41mins): Ever see Robert Bresson’s 1967 classic film “Mouchette,” about a young orphaned girl surviving on her own? If not this feature will give a glimpse of what Bresson did to perfection. “Manjha,” being so short in length, really swings for the emotional fences and connects at times. Here is a black and white short film focusing on an orphaned child from the slums of India. The camera acts as his eyes and we peer helplessly and disgracefully at the evil, poverty and sin that feasts on such desolate villages.

“From Script to Screen: Toilet Scene”– HD (5mins): Maybe the greatest and important scene to the movie is emphasized as Boyle and Beaufoy enlighten viewers why this scene is so great.

Digital Copy: An20extra disc to import onto your computer and from there onto a mobile device, such as in ipod.

Movie- ***1/2 out of ****
Picture Quality- ***1/2 out of ****
Special Features- ***1/2 out of ****

Verdict: Worth the Purchase!

1 Comment »

  1. Awesome review as always!!

    Comment by Jerry — April 14, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

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