Best Picture Recall: Slumdog Millionaire
To finish off our look at Best Picture winners over the past ten years, we’re taking a look at 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire. The picture was directed by Danny Boyle and written by Simon Beaufoy. The film was also loosely based on the novel Q&A by Indian author Vikas Swarup. The film follows an eighteen year old boy named Jamal Malik, who grew up in the Juhu slums of Mumbai, as he competes on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. The film starred Dev Patel as Jamal and Freida Pinto as Latika. The supporting cast was also comprised of Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor, and Irrfan Khan. In addition to winning Best Picture, the film went on to win Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Directing, and Best Film Editing.
So, what stands out about this particular Best Picture winner?
1) The Structure
As I watched this movie again, it struck me just how unusual of a structure the film boasts. The first thing introduced about this whole storyline is that Jamal is being tortured and accused of cheating. It is only as he recounts how he knew the answers to the questions that his story is fully revealed. It’s an interesting blend of present-day and flashbacks throughout the course of his life. It is difficult to make multiple flashbacks work in the course of one film, and yet, Slumdog Millionaire makes them seem fluid. It keeps the story exciting and tension-filled while also developing a story that you desire to see have a resolution.
2) A Sympathetic Main Character
Honestly, it is Jamal’s journey that makes this storyline so effective. The story traces his early childhood to the present-day, and the character experiences one rough road. He and his brother do what it takes to survive, and they endure incredible hardships through their early years. Despite these complications of his childhood, Jamal maintains this sense of integrity and loyalty. At one point the police inspector remarks that he is too honest, and for a kid who would steal and cheat to survive, it’s remarkably true. There is a goodness about this character, and the audience cannot help but love him as he reveals to the police inspector the unfortunate circumstances that have led to him knowing the answers in the game. Of course, credit must be given to Dev Patel and his younger co-stars, Tanay Chheda and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, for bringing this sympathetic character to life.
3) The Star-Crossed Lovers
As awesome as Dev Patel and his younger co-stars are as Jamal, though, the movie would be incomplete without the character of Latika. With Latika and Jamal, you get the classic star-crossed lovers scenario, and it’s one that plays out well here. In fact, the story keeps you so focused on how Jamal knows the answers to the questions that it takes a while to figure out that the story isn’t about the game or the money. This story at its heart is a whimsical romance and a commentary on two people who were meant to be together after being separated time and time again.
At the end of the day, I don’t find it surprising that Slumdog Millionaire walked away with eight Academy Awards. Between the music and the structure, the film went on to be a massive hit, making $377 million between the domestic and international box office. It has a consistent pace, excellent character development, and a moving story that has a delicate balance between realism and fantasy. If you have never seen Slumdog Millionaire, I suggest you give it a watch, and even if you have, I think it is worth another viewing.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.