Sunday 14 March 2010

Slumdog Millionaire

There are crimes aplenty in Slumdog Millionaire, which I’ve just watched, although it isn’t a ‘crime film’ – the crimes are not the prime concerns of the story. It is a truly marvellous movie – I’ve seen a number of very good ones lately, but this is probably the most exhilarating. And it’s interesting from a writer’s perspective because of its narrative structure.

The central idea of the plot is that a poor young man who works in an Indian call centre embarks on a winning spree answering questions of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ The police interrogate (and torture!) him, believing him to be a cheat. But as he explains how he knew the answers to the questions he was asked, a remarkable story unfolds.

Flashback is a tricky device for any writer. If it isn’t handled carefully, it can wreck the momentum of the story. Even the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle struggled with flashback in the longer Sherlock stories. But here, Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay, based on a novel by Vikas Swarup, is extremely effective. The secret of success lies in the combination of character development with fast-paced action and a stunning evocation of the life of the ‘slumdogs’ And because I’m keen on quizzes, the quiz element added a layer of fascination.

A terrific film. Before I saw it, I wondered if its reputation was overblown – but I’m delighted to say that it deserves the accolades it’s received. Superbly acted, with very good music by A.R.Rahman. Recommended.


Anonymous said...

Martin - I'm so glad you enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire. As I read your excellent and thoughtful review, I was thinking about how difficult it can be to do flashbacks well (I haven't really risked them, myself). It does, indeed, take special skill.

Martin Edwards said...

Quite true, it's a technigue that demands great accomplishment, I think.

Hannah Stoneham said...

Pleased to read that you enjoyed Slumdog. I felt that the movie combined its differing landscapes so effectively. I watched it on a plane though, which seems to be where I watch all my favourite films...

Thanks for sharing this interesting review