Set in modern-day Mumbai, Jamal (Dev Patel) has answered all but the last question on the popular game show. He’s now in the hands of the police, who torture him trying to find out how he cheated to get where he is; no one believes he’s that intelligent because he is an orphan from the streets, a “slumdog,” with no education. What follows is the story of how he came to know the answers to the questions. Each question brings another story, and each story tells us more about Jamal. The heart of the story isn’t the show or the money, but Jamal’s love of Latika (Frieda Pinto). She’s a refugee from the ethnic cleansing of the slums, as are Jamal and his older brother, Salim (Madhur Mittal). The threesome encounters an orphanage, a Fagin-like character and many obstacles to hope. And when Jamal is separated from Latika, he moves heaven and earth to find her. No punishment is too great and no journey too long for him. All he wants is to be with her. Director Danny Boyle (“28 Days Later,” “Trainspotting”) pulls back the layers of modern India, now in the headlines again. It is a land of the newly rich, the emerging middle class and the burdened poor. There’s great wealth, but those who inhabit this story struggle to find it. “Slumdog” also speaks to the acquisition of knowledge and the various modes that it can take. This story is beautifully filmed, and there are no punches pulled. For example, a landfill that some call home is heartbreaking to see, but one is able to see how it teems with life. It may be a place of waste, a place that would seem to be death, but people make life there. We see the horror of human sinfulness—found in the dump and beyond—and also the redemption of one who loves so purely that he finds riches in his journey. “Slumdog Millionaire” was one of my favorite movie experiences this year. It won the Audience Award at the Toronto Film Festival and is likely to be nominated for Best Picture for an Oscar. It is one of the finest movies produced this year and, with the passage of time, may be considered one of the finest of this decade. Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va. MPAA Rating: R for some violence, disturbing images and language. Director: Danny Boyle Writer: Simon Beaufoy (based on the novel by Vikas Swarup) Cast: Jamal: Dev Patel; Salim: Madhur Mittal; Latika: Frieda Pinto.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.