Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) is a poor Indian teen who wins big on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” but is then accused of cheating. His explanation for how he knows each of the winning answers involves offering up the tragic story of his life. Juxtaposing his touching boyhood story with the tawdry game show is just a brilliant idea.
It really works for me.
Early in the picture they show how he gets the first answer, and I understand how the rest of the movie is going to play out. But because it seems to promise an interesting and exotic collection of stories, I don’t feel bored or irritated. I understand he will ultimately win the big prize, but I want to see it anyway.
The first half reminds me of Pan’s Labyrinth, especially the big scary Indian guy with the handlebar mustache and the rioting horde descending on the boys and their mom. Jamal’s brother’s ascendance might have been a little over the top, but by the time it happens, I am already onboard. The big dance number seems like the right way to wrap it up and roll the credits–a little bit of everything for everyone.
This is in my top ten and I’m not even sure what the other nine will be.