You will not hear me say this often when it comes to a review of a movie but I do not believe I can do Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire justice in a review. I could star listing of hyperbole after hyperbole and I would not be exaggerating one bit on how I feel about this movie. This is the movie that has made TIFF worthwhile by itself for me and I can’t recommend it strong enough.
The movie starts with Jamal, played by Dev Patel being tortured by a Irfan Khan, the police inspector. He wants to know how someone from the slums could be able to answer so many questions correctly on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. After Jamal is unwilling to admit to cheating during the torture they put him in front of a TV and one by one they go through the questions with him explaining how he knew the answers. Using this premise Danny Boyle is able to provide the audience with one of the most truthful, heartfelt stories that is so much more than the simple romance which it could have been.
One by one Jamal explains how he grew up with his brother Salim in the slums and how they became orphans and how they were taken in by gangsters who had the worst of intentions when it came to the young boys. We see time and time again Latika played by Freida Pinto come and go from Jamal’s life. All of his life in the slums of India have lead him to this point has lead him to where he is today. And each flashback gives beautifully told glimpses into the life of the poor in India as well as being a wonderful story.
I have yet to see Millions but I had heard before going in that Danny Boyle had a knack for getting the best out of child actors and I now fully believe it. Question by question we see Jamil, Salim and Latika age in front of us. We see them during their times of happiness and during the moments in their lives when everything has been turned upside down on them. Never once did I question the emotions and the acting of any of these children. Each and everyone of them were near perfect in their roles. Never once did question the love Jamil had for Latika nor how Salim could end up on a dark path.
It has been a while since a movie has touched me like Slumdog Millionaire did and from the reaction of the audience I am not alone. The applause for it was thunderous and I have never seen an audience clap along with the music in the closing credits. Danny Boyle has truly succeeded in creating a pitch perfect wonderful optimistic yet truthful movie that I am going to watch over and over again for a great many years.
While I was sitting in the theatre today waiting for my next movie to start I was listening to to the people behind me talk about JCVD and Jean Claude Van Damme’s previous movies. Later, after that movie I was browsing the web and I came across a review of JCVD that neatly matched up with the discussion that the audience members were having. The discussion focussed not on JCVD but on what is expected in a Van Damme movie. No one watches his movies for acting the simply watch him for spin kicks. We’ll I have to say that I went into JCVD with the exact opposite intention. I wanted a movie that didn’t rely on his just his kicking skills but instead I wanted a movie that had a point to it while being fun and entertaining and I wanted a chance to see Van Damme actually act.
JCVD opens with an amazing minute or two single shot fight scene which rivals any long take from any action movie. The only thing though is that you know going in that this isn’t going to be your typical Van Damme generic action movie. This is a movie that will poke fun at the whole nature of celebrity, Hollywood and just who Jean Claude actually is. In JCVD everyone refers to Van Damme as Jean Claude so I am going to do likewise. Jean Claude takes aspects of his actual personal life and intertwines it with the story of a bank robbery where everyone naturally assumes that he is the culprit. Jean Claude is having money troubles because of his wanting to complete a real movie and a custody battle over his daughter. He returns to Belgium after a humorous yet extremely heart felt trial where the main case against him is that he kills people in bad movies. Upon his return his money troubles cause him to stop in a bank to receive a wire transfer where he stumbles into the bank robbery. The police immediately believe him to be the one robbing the bank.
The bank robbery is told in 4 parts which jump around in time. The first part we only see what the police see. The second through 4th we get a combined view which pushes forward the story while also giving glimpses of what has lead Jean Claude to this point. For me this is the one real weakness of the movie. The bank robbery started to drag during a few moments while it was repeating the story from a different perspective. There is a lot to like and even love in JCVD though.
Jean Claude is capable of acting. I truly felt sorry for him at several points throughout the movie and I was truly rooting for him not as an action hero but as a real person. He is able to laugh at himself while still remaining a sense of earnestness. There is one scene where he rises up out of the set in order to provide a monologue that is causing a bit of a split in the reviews. People either seem to love it or hate it. You can count me in on the love it side.
JCVD is not a typical Van Damme movie but is much more. It is a Jean Claude movie that will sorely disappoint viewers who are simply looking for a good not direct to DVD Van Damme movie. It will however provide great experience and will even give you something to think about for a while after. Oh and here is one final comment; the ending of JCVD provided the audience with what both the Van Damme fans and also the Jean Claude fans with what they wanted. It was truly a perfect moment when the whole audience erupted with a cheer during the last few moments of the bank robbery.
JCVD is really going to be one of the treasures of TIFF and even if you are not a fan of his action movies it is one you need to check out.