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Jamal is famous. He plays in “Who wants to be a Millionaire” and has answered the penultimate question. Before the final one, the chance to truly ascend from the slums where he grew up to become the multi-millionaire everybody in the film seems to be dreaming of, the show takes an overnight break. Show host and police do not believe Jamal just knows all those questions’ answers, so they interrogate him and rough him up to find out how he did it. By telling them the story behind every single answer, he reveals his life’s story, and the story of his eternal love to Latika guiding him through most of his life.

The film is splendid almost despite it’s narrative construct. The alternation between the TV studio situation, the questions and the back story behind Jamal knowing the answers is stretched almost from the very beginning. It needs to be modified each time, and Danny Boyle does that, in order to avoid repetitiveness. There are questions every 5-year-old knows, and there are completely impossible things such as cricket records where only the specific exposure to a specific criminals in a specific moment of time could make him remember the facts, and did. So with a bit of stress on the script seams, Jamal works his way through his painful and sometimes cruel childhood and adolescence, how he mingles with scum and crooks, how he finds (in the rain) and loses the girl of his dreams, and moves the story towards a really beautifully devised showdown involving a man in a TV studio, a phone lifeline, a girl outside a shop window, a phone in a car, and a man with a gun in a bathtub full of money. Jamal has taken all this one for the one reason of getting exposure and making Latika see him and find him, and he achieves that. Many things happen at the same time, but they all revolve around him, the planet’s movement at this point has only the single purpose of making those two people find each other. The editing here is masterful, as is the very humble acting, especially of Dev Patel as Jamal. The way he answers one question with a shrug and an indifferent “well A then” is sublime, as it proves, had there been any doubt, that he does not give a damn about winning that money.
I have not seen so many Danny Boyle films in my life, but between Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Sunshine, I think it’s fair to judge that his art is to make films cinematically rich, real screen-fillers full of sceneries, people and drama. This very movie-ish movie deserves the appreciation it already got, and more. It does not shy away from the brutalities of life in the Mumbay slums, and neither does it from giving a bit of hope. Beautiful people and music, too!

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  1. By 127 Hours (Danny Boyle 2010) « Cine-Blog on 10 Jan 2011 at 3:29 pm

    […] that open the window for this kind of film: having just been drowned in a tidal wave of Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire certainly helps create that kind of […]

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