Slumdog Millionaire and Valkyrie are out on DVD, but which is the best one to try and why. We investigate
5/7 Dir Danny Boyle US, India (PG15) The lifeline. Ask the audience. ‘Is that your final answer?’ The rampant global success of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? has less to do with personality than with timeless dramatic principles of suspense and release, risk and reward. And so it goes with Slumdog Millionaire, a simple yet euphoric rags-to-riches drama, one that shoehorns in terror, action and an unusual amount of class politics for mainstream entertainment. It feels about as supercharged as popular moviemaking gets. As 18-year-old Jamal (Dev Patel), born in Mumbai’s harshest ghetto, nears the India game show’s top prize, he is immediately viewed askance by local detectives; their interrogation leads the movie into vibrant flashbacks as each of Jamal’s answers triggers an anecdote from the school of hard knocks.
Bollywood’s melodramatic sweep is an obvious influence on director Danny Boyle, as is Dickens; there’s a long-lost love in waif-like Latika (Freida Pinto) and plenty of Faginesque villainy to go around. Indeed, when childhood chums grow up into helpful hoodlums, you’ll roll your eyes at the preposterousness of it all. But the spirit of the film is so punchy and good natured, it’s hard to mind, especially when its ultimate point is grounded in intellectual merit. Boyle, directing with the on-site help of India’s Loveleen Tandan, is still widely thought of as the Trainspotting guy, the Britpop-with-a-chaser guy. But Slumdog Millionaire crystallises a deeper preoccupation, visible all the way back in Boyle’s 1995 feature debut, Shallow Grave, namely the social pressures of instant wealth. We always knew he was about mobility, but it’s actually upward mobility. Joshua Rothkopf Dhs85 from Virgin Megastore
4/7 Dir Bryan Singer US, Germany (PG15) In Valkyrie, we’re supposed to root for a group of Nazis who are less mean than the ones in power – Nazis who would eliminate Hitler because he’s a ‘shame’ on Germany. You’ll get no arguments here, but this runs counter to decades of enjoyable hissing at the movies. As a result, director Bryan Singer leans heavily on the mechanics of the real-life 1944 plot, hoping we won’t notice those swastikas so much. A bomb is tucked neatly into a bottle of cognac. Later, a bald munitions expert (a purring Christian Berkel) demonstrates the workings of a briefcase fuse. Will our hero, the wounded Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), be able to squeeze the trigger with only three working fingers? Pretend you don’t know the ending.
How is Tom Cruise? Never a natural stoic, he’s always better when crumbling into histrionics (Magnolia). The dimensions of Von Stauffenberg’s global heroism must have appealed to him, but Cruise has committed to playing an enormous square, a Nazi who telephones his wife a lot. When Valkyrie tightens the screws like a poor man’s Munich, it’s decent enough. But what I wouldn’t have paid to see the Cruise of Tropic Thunder pull off another brilliant cameo, raging in his bunker behind the button moustache. Joshua Rothkopf Dhs85 from Virgin Megastore