There are some films one doesn't expect to walk away from the Academy Awards with an armload of Oscars. Such is certainly the case for Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, which has just hit Blu-ray and DVD. Stickers added to the cases after production may indicate the movie's success with the Academy, but nothing on the Blu-ray's actual printed cover (at least the ones sent out to reviewers) indicates that it won eight Oscars, though a Golden Globe for Boyle is mentioned on the back. Ironically, the film itself is about an underdog going all the way.
Starring Dev Patel as Jamil Malik, the film follows a young man in Mumbai whom no one thought had a chance at anything. Malik, however, has managed to make it onto the Indian version of Who Wants to a Millionaire, where he actually knows the answers to all the questions.
The film itself is told as a series of flashbacks, opening with Malik being tortured in a police station after his first night on Millionaire. Everyone involved thinks Jamal has cheated to get as far as he has – one question away from the big prize. He is questioned throughout the night by a police inspector (Irrfan Khan), who takes Jamal through the questions he was asked on the show and learns all about Jamal's life story and how Jamal knows the answers to some impossibly difficult questions.
The inspector – and the audience – learn all about Jamal's growing up in the slums of Mumbai with nothing; Jamal's sometimes rocky relationship with his brother, Salim (as an adult portrayed by Madhur Mittal); and Jamal's pursuit of the love of his life, Latika (as an adult portrayed by Freida Pinto). Though depicted as a harsh and gripping reality butting heads with the possibility of salvation and fantastic wealth, the film is, quite clearly, a fantasy. It is a good fantasy, one that completely envelops the audience and has them rooting for Jamal and Latika throughout, but upon finishing it one can't help but get the sense that this fantastic fairytale is in fact nothing more than that.
As Jamal is questioned in the police station about knowing the answers, the audience is taken through his life in an almost perfectly linear fashion. Amazingly, the questions Jamal does know the answer to, starting with question number one on the show, take Jamal from his childhood straight through to his present life without jumping around in time. He doesn't go from being five when he learned the answer to the first question to being 18 for the third and then back to nine for the fifth question, no, he grows as the questions continue. It is certainly a device that makes it easier to tell Jamal's story, but it also makes the entire story less believable.