While everyone is raving about Slumdog Millionaire, let me just stress that I've been a fan of Danny Boyle since Trainspotting. So that makes me more of an expert. Of course that was just a joke.
And to sum up Danny Boyle in one word: brilliant. Some people may argue that the great filmmakers are Coppola, Spielberg, and Scorsese, but they should realize that these people are American, and hence come from a different school of filmmaking. Boyle's films have that unmistakable European trademark, and on that ground alone, he shouldn't be compared to any of the American greats. Danny Boyle is brilliant. Period.
Westerners marvel at Boyle's decision to shoot entirely in the Mumbai slums, most of them seeing poverty up close for the very first time. Now for Third World viewers like moi, that's nothing new. We see that everyday. But what Danny Boyle has successfully captured on film is not the dirt and grime of slum life, but the love and happiness of the people who live in it. And that is something not all filmmakers can do.
It is said that Bollywood films are always shot inside the safe confines of the studio, where crowd control is never a problem. Shoot a film in the streets of Mumbai or New Delhi, and the hardest job would be controlling the swarm of people watching for their favorite celebrities. But fearless Boyle has braved the Indian streets, deciding that no studio magic could ever capture the real thing. And the breathtaking shots are a testament to his triumph.
Story-wise, Simon Beaufoy's screenplay is excellent. Adapted from a novel called Q & A, Beaufoy's script is a perfectly crafted mix between the questions on the TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (Indian version) and the life of the main character Jamal Malik. The poetry of the page has been translated successfully into poetry on the screen. The Boyle-Beaufoy combo is an effective one indeed.
And now, the acting. This film would not have been as effective if it weren't for the brilliant actors. Dev Patel and Freida Pinto light up the screen with their excellent performances. Patel (discovered by Danny Boyle's daughter on the British show Skins) is perfect as the good-natured future millionaire (was that a spoiler or not?), while Ms. Pinto radiates her beauty on the big screen for the first time, and she does not disappoint at all. But of course, good actors are guided by good directors, and I need not keep repeating that Danny Boyle is brilliant, because I'm running out of synonyms for the word "brilliant."
The musical score, including the excellent electronica (no Danny Boyle film is complete without any electronica) was composed by A. R. Rahman, who took home the Golden Globe for his score. Again, the music complemented the mood of Boyle's images, and the rising pulse of the beats blended seamlessly with the rising tensions in the story. And I honestly believe that very few filmmakers on this planet can pull off a full-length feature film without using a cello on the soundtrack.
Again, let me just state the obvious: Danny Boyle is brilliant. Slumdog Millionaire will win an Oscar. And I might just go watch Trainspotting again.
Original rating: Nine out of ten.
**Special thanks to Mr. Romeo de la Trinidad, for his graciousness in letting us barge into his home to watch bootlegged DVDs.