However it's already clear that his Slumdog Millionaire film is becoming a bit of a hit with the critics, but what about audiences? Well I attended a preview screening and I was surprised.
Come the penultimate question the show concludes until the following day and he's taken away to be interrogated by the police, and that is actually where the film begins. He's held by the police and they work their way through a video of the show from that evening, stopping at each question and having the boy explain how he answered each question correctly, after all how can a slumdog reach the final question when laywers and doctors have failed before him?
At each question the boy recalls his past and explains how he came to know the answer behind the question, and at the same time discover something about his life, the relationship with the girl he fell in love with from an early age, and about India itself.
The first thing that you notice about the film is that it's nothing like a film you would associate with Danny Boyle. This is very different and it marks another leap away from the stereotypical Boyle that most would associate with the director of Trainspotting.
He's already had 28 Days Later and Sunshine (Filmstalker reviews) which have pulled him away in two different genres, but still similar directions, but Slumdog Millionaire is off at a complete tangent and something you just wouldn't expect at all. The fact that it is co-directed by Loveleen Tandan.
Despite the change and the dual helming, the film is superbly directed and looks wonderful throughout, filled with great locations and superb production design, and the way the story is setup captured my imagination from the opening scene. It could have been completely in flashback, as the questions are being answered or any other number of ways, but the flashbacks through video to the questions and then in his mind and words to his past just fit the film perfectly.
The story begins back when the boy and his brother were orphaned at a young age during some anti-muslim attacks and follows through to the present day and beyond. It's during the younger period though that I found the most enjoyment with the film.
The performances of the two young actors are better than the corresponding performances of their adult counterparts in the latter half of the film, and the story itself has much more weight and dramatic impact during the first half of the film, again following the storylines of the younger characters rather than the older ones we see in the current story.
The dramatic threads concerning the brothers and the girl feel weaker and disconnected in the second half, you don't feel so attached and invested in the characters and how their stories play out, and I found that disappointing because during the first half I was enthralled in their stories and the friendship triangle, and the dramatic power of some of those scenes was very powerful.
For example the scenes where the two brothers meet again after all this time apart lacked the drama and tension that scenes such as the three children being in the unopened hotel carried. The moment where the older brother sends the younger out of the room is one of the strongest in the film and far outweighs the strength of any of the scenes with the older characters.
It's not that the scenes with the older characters aren't enjoyable to watch though, they just aren't as intense and powerful as the earlier scenes with the younger characters. To be fair though the relationship between Jamal and Latika does gain more importance and weight as the story progresses, just not the impact of some of those earlier scenes between them all.
Despite enjoying the younger actors more in the first half of the film, in the latter half I did have my favourites too. Irrfan Khan and Anil Kapoor as the Police Inspector and the host of the millionaire show are very well portrayed, and both dynamics between them and Jamal are well acted, directed, and written.
I found the story was well written throughout, although there were some contrived and unsurprising turns later on, particularly in the ending, I felt that it was forgiveable as I had bought into the fantasy and feel good elements of the film well beforehand. Some of the writing was extremely natural and very identifiable rather than being too fantastical and in the land of film make believe.
For instance the "phone a friend" moment was pretty contrived, and the way it brought the three characters together again through fate or luck was another very strong moment. Contrived yes, but very enjoyable and satisfying too? Definitely.
The screen writing is superb if I'm to be honest, the more I think back on the film the more I realise that the way the answers were explained was very well conceived and developed. Not only do we see more of Indian life, but we also watch the passage of time and the development of the three characters and their relationship. It's a great choice for the plot and it's a great way to tell the story.
It's in the power of some of the exchanges between characters at key moments in the film that really does the writing justice though, and it draws you in from the opening moments.
I really did enjoy Slumdog Millionaire. It's a wonderful story that you really will enjoy, and isn't one of these sickly sweet stories that is overly contrived. In that sense it's a little like It's a Wonderful Life, for with the feel good aspects of the story come some serious moments reality and drama that help even out the latter half of the film and provide for a much richer and satisfying journey for the characters.
With the great script comes great direction, superb locations and strong production design, making this a triumph of British and Indian film-making. This is perhaps the best showcase of Danny Boyle's, and Loveleen Tandan's, talents to date, and of the other talented names involved in the project, particularly the script from Simon Beaufoy adapted from the novel by Vikas Swarup (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com).
An excellent feel good film with plenty of drama, great characters and a superbly written script. Definitely one to become a Christmas favourite.