Film Break: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Danny Boyle has made a career out of complete disdain for expectations. His calling card as a filmmaker is his creative restlessness, and his relatively short career has burned brightly as he’s blazed from genre to genre, turning a zombie pic into an apocalyptic nightmare (28 Days Later), lending his own philosophical stamp to tipsy sci-fi (Sunshine), even turning on the fireworks for a joyful family film (Millions).
His latest is something altogether other. A surreal quiz-show thriller, a family movie of bone-crunching violence, a romance as starry-eyed as any melodrama, Slumdog Millionaire is a movie of such unexpected creativity, unfettered joy, and unabashed romance, it’s a rare film that hurtles past mere admiration and inspires mad love. Yes, it’s a delirious swirl of color and motion. Yes, it’s a masterpiece of editing. Yes, the soundtrack is practically a character unto itself, and yes, Boyle makes use of the cinematic form in some inspired and thrilling ways.
Yet for all its intellectual merits, this film, more than any other in recent memory, hits at a visceral level. At its heart it’s a movie about star-crossed love, a ravishing romance that drops spectacularly naive and idealistic lines about love and destiny and somehow gets away with it. But since it’s set against the backdrop of filth– both literal and moral– that is India’s slumlands, it becomes something that falls between a parable, an epic, and a fairy tale: A bold testament to the redeeming, restoring power of love and the necessity of hope, seeming to pour out of the heart of the film itself in a way that makes it a disarmingly pure and joyful motion picture.
And so it ends up being something very strange indeed: A film so brimming with humor and heartbreak and life that it woos you almost immediately, and then begs to be remembered, lived with, cherished. It’s an achievement that Boyle is almost sure to never match, but even if he never makes another movie in his life, his legacy is ensured with this tiny miracle of a film.