Danny Boyle’s joyful trip to the slums of Mumbai is one of the year’s best films

Christopher Orr in The New Republic:

Screenhunter_06_nov_12_1458Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle’s captivating new film, is structured as a riddle: How is it that 18-year-old Jamal (Dev Patel), a penniless orphan–i.e., “slumdog”–from the streets of Mumbai, could answer trivia question after trivia question correctly on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” en route to a shot at the 20 million rupee jackpot? Is he a genius? Is he cheating?

The riddle is answered with a series of flashbacks to Jamal’s boyhood, in which reside the seeds of his hard-won knowledge. He knows, for instance, who the star of the 1973 film Zanjeer was–Amitabh Bachchan, for those of you scoring at home–because Bachchan was his favorite star when he was little. How much did he love Bachchan? When the actor made a publicity stop in Mumbai, and Jamal’s brother Salim (played when grown by Madhur Mittal) locked him in a stilted outhouse, he exited the only way he could: straight down, a fecal pilgrimage that makes Ewan McGregor’s plunge into the Worst Toilet in Scotland in Boyle’s Trainspotting look like a dip in the Caribbean. When the boy emerges exultant from the muck, he makes a beeline for the scrum surrounding his idol Bachchan, bouncing off (and soiling) his fellow fans like a subcontinental variation on Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo. Rewarded with an autographed photo, he holds it aloft with all the pride of an Olympic athlete brandishing a medal. This is not the last time we see the lengths to which Jamal will go for love.

More here.