Director: Danny Boyle. Rated 15; running time 120 mins.
It would have been hard to miss the all the recent publicity surrounding Danny Boyle’s film Slumdog Millionaire. Having won eight Oscars it has become a huge success. The film tells the story of Salim, an orphan from the slums of Mumbai who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ He is arrested under suspicion of cheating, and while being interrogated, events from his life history are shown in flashback explaining why he knows so many answers.
The film is a visual triumph. India is shown in all its vibrant, colourful, chaotic glory. It is also hugely engaging, catching you up into its narrative momentum from the outset. It is billed in much of the advertising as being a ‘feel good’ movie. But, whilst it is a life-affirming story, like much of Boyle’s work Slumdog is unafraid to look at the darker corners of life. The film explores the brutality of life in the slums of urban India, deals with the exploitation of children and takes an uncompromising look at poverty.
Whilst very much an Indian film, part of its appeal is that it deals with a number of broader themes relevant to all cultures – morality, the choices we make, redemption, love, freedom, greed and poverty. Weaved through the whole film is also the question of whether our lives are meaningless and random, or if there are bigger forces at work.
The film is really a fable that poses many questions but ultimately gives no answers. It is valuable as it forces the viewer to confront pressing and difficult issues of wealth, poverty and injustice that should concern all Christians. As a starting point for conversations with friends who have seen the film, Slumdog could also be very fruitful.
The search for some kind of coherence and meaning in life, the desire for justice, redemption and love are universally desired things, but Slumdog is a reminder that, ultimately, only the gospel can provide them.
(Readers should be advised that the film contains several uses of strong language and some scenes of violence.)