Slumdog Millionaire offers rags to riches tale where a boy surrounded by poverty is entered in an Indian games show trying to find his lost love. Not only does he get the girl but also gets a "big stack of cash". This comes at a price as he unfolds a blanket full of secrets in the process.
Heavily adapted from Vikas Swarup's Q and A, the film is set in modern day Mumbai. Like the city itself, it overflows and chortles with multiplicity.
The engaging opening scene is quite dramatic as we are plunged into the dingy police station, further made unearthly and malevolent by the effective use of low key lighting. As Jamal is getting brutally tortured by the police officer, the close up shot reflects the agony he faces and sadistic nature of torturer who lights a cigarette right in Jamal's face. The lead detective confirms his neglect by saying "I have thieves, burglars and now you."
Slum dog millionaire deciphers into a triangular structure where the TV game show, the police station and Jamal's upbringing develop into 3 different strands in the film. Jump cuts play a clever role in linking the strands together. They are effective because they draw attention to the constructed nature of the film. It is represented when the scene dramatically changes to the game show when the police officer gives Jamal a thunderous slap.
Danny Boyle, the director has used very clever semiotics. One scene as a whole is a semiotic as it represents the 1993 anti Muslim attacks in Bombay slums. Also in that scene we see Rama which represents the fact that there is religious conflict in the film which highlights the fact that there is civil war.
Some of Jamal's flashbacks unfold like nightmares. This is shown in the scene his mother dies.
As he is asked the question of what Rama is holding in his right hand Jamal's face suddenly drops. This tells you that he has horrible memories of the flashback that is about to come.
Although the flashbacks unfold like nightmares, they also link to the studio as they tell us the answers to the questions that were asked. In the scene that Jamal's mum dies we know that he had bad memories but when he was running to escape he sees a child dressed up as Rama with a bow and arrow. This shows us how he knew the answer to the question "What is Rama holding in his right hand".
Life in the slums is very different to our way of life as they will do anything to stay alive. This is shown when Salim sold Jamals signed picture of an Indian celebrity that was priceless to him since he had to jump in dung to even have a chance of getting it.
Criminal activities dominate life in Mumbai. Salim and Jamal are both caught up in it. As Maman took full advantage of the slums, it had put Jamal and Salim in the line of criminal activity. This is because they had both played a part in the death of Maman. Salim shot him and Jamal insisted they came back to save Latika.
Jamal's determination and sheer courage in pursuit of true love is to be admired as he went on the game show just to find Latika, his lost love (he didn't go on the show for the money). Another example that led him to her but put him and his brother in the centre of crime was when he came back for Latika after running away and leaving her there to become a future prostitute. This shows that he really loves Latika because there are plenty more women out there yet he is still chasing the first. It shows that he will do everything in his power to find her when he loses her.
Extreme contrast creates tension in the film as we are subjected to the disloyal and ruthless Salim who takes the opposite path to loyal and honest Jamal. This is because Salim feels the urge to have a gun and to be in a gang just so he earn dirty cash and be fully protected. This is completely different to Jamal as he gets himself an honest job at a call centre to earn honest hard working money.
The level of crime is disturbing as it is linked to power and control. This is in particular to Javid. As we see kids running away from police officers on a mangy and dusty road we suddenly see a fresh new silver Mercedes-Benz implying that he is above the law. He uses this in a bad way as he motivated crime and violence making people work for him to kill innocent people or people that he has held a grudge against. One person in particular he hires is Salim. This is because he killed Maman, Javid's enemy with a colt 45 gun.
As Salim has always done things against Jamal (.e.g. Slept with Latika, kicked him out and left him on his own) he makes it up to his little brother by letting Latika go to find Jamal at the studio. Doing this Salim risks his life as he gets shot and falls into a bath full of money that he had laid out. But in the process he also kills Javid.
Overall this film is much more sophisticated than the plot suggests. It is Bollywood mixed with Hollywood. The city of God is rewritten by Charles Dickens. The film does get a little inelegant at times but they give the finishing touches to a truly remarkable film.
Yet I cant help wonder that the film could be clever way to boost the ratings of the boring and tedious ITV1 show "Who wants to be a Millionaire". However the way director Danny Boyle takes on a bewildering mess of contradictory and turns it into a surprisingly pure point breathtaking.