Boyle is one of the few directors that manage to work within the solid confines of commercial film but still manage to keep a very modern and unique look. He also knows how to make genre films his own and with Slumdog Millionaire he goes one step further, taking on the whole Bollywood industry. And again, he miraculously succeeds.
It's always refreshing to see a new Boyle film. He does things with existing genres. Adds to them, mixes them with others, updates them. It makes his films a little harder to a sell to a hardened genre-loving audience, but for those looking for new things to enjoy Boyle is a most welcome certainty. With Slumdog Millionaire he simple reaffirms that status. While his newest film emits a definite Bollywood vibe it is equal amounts not Bollywood, making sure those who have little affection with that side of the movie industry are not immediately put off by the film.
Most notable about Boyle's style is his ever sprawling cinematography. Boyle's use of color is impeccable and what's even better, he is able to keep this up for a whole film. He combines it with strong and vivid camera work and some awesome editing tricks. It gives his films an extra flair mostly nonexistent in commercial film (Tony Scott is the only name that comes to mind, though Boyle is better at restraining himself). Slumdog Millionaire looks lush from start to finish and succeeds in being more than a visual one-trick pony.
Equally strong is the soundtrack and more importantly, the way it is applied throughout the film. Though a little too poppy for my liking it flows perfectly together with the visuals and the both of them create a very solid and tight atmosphere. The inclusion of M.I.A. in particular was a pretty welcome surprise and added a lot to the fresh and hip feel of the film, somehow still a very rare thing in the world of film.
The film itself is neatly constructed around Who Wants To Be A Multimillionaire, one of the most popular game shows to date. Our local hero is able to participate by chance and through some miraculous leaps of faith sees himself in the final round of the show in no time. Him being from the slums arouses suspicion among the program makers but also gives him a local hero status among the people from his hometown. Our hero is taken to the police station in order to clear his name and through a series of flashbacks we see how he was able to solve every question up until that moment, which are all somehow related to a particular period in his life.
A pretty interesting concept which gives the film that little extra and allows Boyle to lean a little more on the drama and feel-good than other movies could've. While the outcome of the film is easy to predict and the whole ending is quite sentimental, no other ending would've done justice to the film. As for the game show part, its function is clear and its screen time limited, so chances are scarce that the film will feel outdated soon simply because the game show goes out of fashion. Boyle really did a good job with that.
It's been a long time since I've seen an audience in theaters been this involved with a film. The climax reminded me of young kids watching a puppet theater. Especially when they jump up and shout at the puppets to give them directions (often to point them where the bad guys are). I think more than a few people at the theater were relying on adult conditioning to restrain themselves from doing exactly that during the build-up of the final question.
Slumdog Millionaire works on all levels. While it starts off as a light drama it ends as a pure feel-good film and has no trouble making it work. It's a pleasure to behold, the soundtrack is right on the spot and the film never dips. It's good to see Boyle is still developing as a director and even though he might look like a worn out rocker on image, he is one of the hippest and coolest directors working in commercial film today. Slumdog Millionaire is not his masterpiece, but more than an excellent film altogether.