Recently I watched a couple movies that I really did not expect to enjoy, and they both surprised me. Marley and Me was one, and Slumdog Millionaire the other. I know that Slumdog won all these awards and everything, and I know everybody said it was all great and wonderful, but still, it just didn't look that interesting. Well, I watched it anyway, and I must admit that it was way better than I was expecting.
It starts out with Jamal Malik, a poor kid from the slums of India with no family other than an older brother, about to win 20 million rupees on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?... but rather than finding him on the show about to answer the last question, we see him being tortured by local police who believe he has been cheating. And this is where the story comes in. For each question asked on the gameshow, Jamal recollects his experience in childhood which led him to know the correct answer.
Jamal and his older brother Salim were poor street rats in the slums of India, and were both witness to their mother's death at a very young age, where they then set out on their own. Eventually they are found by a guy named Maman, who brings them to his placed occupied by many other kids of various ages. There he feeds them and clothes them. They believe him to be their savior, but really he is just gangster slime who trains children to beg and steal. Salim gets chosen to be trained as an enforcer, or muscle, but when he learns that Maman is going to blind Jamal (because blind kids bring in more money), the two attempt escape, along with Latika, a girl they met a while back that Jamal really likes. Unfortunately, only the brothers are able get away.
Now on their own again, our bros decide to live on top of trains, stealing food and whatever else they can get their grubby little paws on from the passengers. Then when it's time for a career change, they pretend to be travel guides and... more stealing. But eventually Jamal insists they head back to Mumbai to find Latika. Do you know how many people live in Mumbai?! LOTS! And yet, they're able to find her without even hiring a private dick. So where is shoe now? A dancer in a brothel... and still owned by Maman, who gets a bit cranky when they try to rescue her. But thanks to Salim bring a sidearm with him, the three are able to be reunited. Of course, that doesn't last long, as Salim gets jealous of the feelings between Latika and Jamal, and does something that... well, that someone just shouldn't do, much less your brother!
I don't think it's really necessary to go into details, and actually I probably don't need to continue on with the story either, as you get the idea. Jamal has a life of adventure, but it's not all random, and his experience help him earn the knowledge that he is able to put to good use on the gameshow. But the most important aspect of his trials is that he is never gives up on finding his love. He never seeks out another relationship only to find that he will only be happy with Latika... nope, as he loves Latika, and knows absolutely the she is the one person he wants to be with. It's very touching.
And so while I originally thought this movie was going to be a depressing tale of kid surviving in the slums, I now know my preconception was incorrect. Yes, it was about survival, but it was never depressing, and was in fact inspirational and interesting and exciting. And while I don't think I'll have much of a desire to watch it again, I do think it is worth checking out.
Special features on the DVD include not one, but two commentaries. One has the director, Danny Boyle, and the Dev Patel, who played Jamal, and the other has a producer and writer. There are also a whole bunch of deleted scenes (like over 30 minutes worth), a descent making-of featurette, and something called Slumdog Countdown, with is basically like a music video that shows the major events of the movie.