It might help to think of “Slumdog Millionaire” as a bit like “City of God” set in India, but spiced up with a bit more Dickens. This a very good thing. “Slumdog” is an epic saga that follows the life of Jamal, a young Indian boy in Mumbai, who suddenly finds himself orphaned, and shivering to stay dry in an old boxcar with his older brother and a shy girl who has also just lost her parents. From there the children begin a journey that includes losing each other countless times and then having accept that every separation pushes them further into the realities of adulthood. The film is slick, fast, triumphant, devastating, and authentic. It is shot with an often dizzying cinematic energy, but patient enough to reveal the colorful textures of modern India.
In the hands of almost any other director the story of Jamal’s journey from inescapable poverty to game show millionaire could have felt either to unlikely or at times too hard to watch, as the barbarian treatment of children that still exists today in places like India and China, inspires a sense of guilt not usually sought after in a movie. But Danny Boyle, as he did in “Trainspotting,” “Shallow Grave,” and “28 Days Later,” is both a technical genius as well as a soulful filmmaker. Sure the film which cuts back and forth in time feels a bit inevitable, but this is softened by the underlying Bollywood flavor that oozes from it’s outside edges. In the end, “Slumdog” will make you wince, cry, laugh, madden and feel that exhileration that comes with rooting for the underdog … this is a modern classic.