I remember when director Danny Boyle did his first movie Shallow Grave. My friend from Scotland was going nuts about how he saw the best movie ever made. It was good, but it wasn’t until Boyle’s second movie Trainspotting, that I called him and said I had seen the best movie ever made.
It’s years later and many films since, and Boyle is back with a splash.
Jamal (Dev Patel) isn’t quite a Ken Jennings. For those that don’t know, he’s the guy that broke all those records on Jeopardy! Jamal is getting questions correctly on a game show because they’re all things of significance that happened in his life. We know this because of the flashbacks (sure it’s contrived, but kind of fun). He’s from the slums of Mumbai, so of course we’re rooting for him. Now, when he gets dragged away by the cops and beaten for a confession as to the fraud involved – the movie gets a little more interesting. There are also some side stories going on. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) drifted far from the book for some of them. In the movie, he has enough interesting stuff that is all shot well. We have the death of Jamal’s mom, and the idiotic decisions his older brother is making. There’s also a girl he has a crush on (played well by the beautiful Freida Pinto).
There was a scene near the end where Jamal is in a train station looking for his love. My friend leaned in and said “It’s so unrealistic that he isn’t being mobbed. He was just on that huge game show and everyone was watching him.”
Well, that’s the least of the unrealistic scenes. A lot about this movie you just have to go with, but it’s one of those films where that doesn’t bother you so much. I would’ve preferred Boyle were a little more subtle in some scenes. I also think the flashbacks – which at first were interesting – soon became a bit contrived. I’m not sure how that could’ve been fixed, but there came a point where I thought about the scene where Cliff from Cheers was on Jeopardy! It was also the same scene where Rosie Perez was on Jeopardy! in White Men Can’t Jump. Questions that are ones they can answer because they directly relate to their lives.
The movie was fast-paced, visually stunning, and some grainy cinematography that worked perfectly.
Bollywood star Anil Kapoor is excellent as the creepy game show host, and Indian film composer A.R. Rahman provides an authentic sounding soundtrack.
This movie is a must see for a few reasons. Every critic is proclaiming it the best film of the year, and it’ll surely be nominated for an Oscar. That means it’ll make my list of most overrated movies of the year, as it won’t make my top 5 of the year. It’s not nearly as good as Monsoon Wedding, a movie in India that nobody saw. It’s not Simon Beaufoy or Danny Boyle’s best films (those would be The Full Monty and Trainspotting).
You won’t be disappointed though. It’s got a really great ending, and the closing credits even the end gives you a taste of Bollywood.
This gets a B+.