There are a lot of movies that I watch, enjoy, then more or less forget as I’m walking to my car.
And then there are those that can be found rummaging around in my head and heart days after I’ve seen them. Slumdog Millionaire, the soon-to-be-Oscar-contending film by director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Millions) has done just that to me. He has created a movie so intense, and tragic, and heartrending, and beautiful that I find myself still replaying scenes of it in my head, 48 hours later. It might be the best movie I’ve seen this year.
The name “slumdog” refers to the lowest of the low in India’s brutal caste system. It is a group of people perceived as thieves and liars by those who have left them little choice but to be that way. Slumdog Millionaire, then, is the story of three of these “slumdogs” – brothers Jamal and Salim, and a girl named Latika, all orphaned at a young age when their Muslim community was slaughtered by Hindu extremists.
These kids navigate the outcast culture of India, and Slumdog Millionaire is brutal in its depiction of what life is like for them. While the movie is never gratuitous, it is heart-wrenching, as we observe a world where people horribly abuse children in their quest for power and money. Told from the flashback perspective of a 20ish-year-old Jamal, we watch as these three kids are separated – emotionally and physically – by tragedy and bad choices and horrible injustice. And in this we are forced to wonder – what hope is there for good to triumph in a world as evil as this?
I’m making this movie sound horribly depressing and unremarkable. But it isn’t. I still haven’t really explained the brilliance of this movie – about how Jamal is one question away from the grand prize of India’s version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” I haven’t mentioned how he is being questioned by the police for cheating and how – in explaining how he knew the answers on the show – we learn about his past. I haven’t mentioned how – with every revelation of his past – we become more intensely captivated by his present and how things will turn out. How we desperately want good to finally shine through immense evil … And that’s all I can say about the plot. Everything else has to be discovered by those who choose to see it.
A word of caution though – while the movie has little profanity and no sexual situations, it is extremely hard to watch at times. There are beatings and torture and the horrible mistreatment of children. This is not a movie for younger people. But for those who can handle the intensity, Slumdog Millionaire is a movie that looks at the world as it is and dares to believe that – in the smallest of ways – all things can work together for good. While not a Christian movie exactly, it’s a movie that portrays the world as it really is. It affirms hard-fought goodness, and sacrifice, and love and – ultimately – redemption.
For my money, it’s easily the best movie in theaters right now.
(One note: Slumdog Millionaire is currently in limited release, so for much of the country it will still be hard to find. But once it comes to your area, I strongly recommend it to an adult audience, and for mature students able to handle its darker moments).
Josh Pease – not Josh Treece – is on the high school team at Saddleback Church and would like to point out to Mr. Treece that THIS was a completely positive review. Mr. Pease would thus like all “you don’t like any movies” accusations to stop coming from Mr. Treece’s mouth.