118 Minutes. Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Priyanka Bose, Abhishek Bharate, Sunny Pawar & Nicole Kidman. Director: Garth Davis.
Roaring onto screens like a packed express at rush hour, 'Slumdog' star Dev Patel has become the millionaires actor we all want to be thanks to banking on a career as dynamic as it is diverse. First there was Danny Boyle's classic lifeline and then two stops booked in 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'. And who could forget 'Chappie'? As modern day Phillip K. Dick gave us a South African, dystopian future fable for the modern day, alive like Johnny 5. Dev's devastatingly good acting has always given the desperate nature of his films a measure of brilliance. And now the once Rookie of the Year becomes an All-Star as he nabs his first 'Best Actor' nomination for a film with an Academy of Oscar candidates. Gosling, Affleck, Garfield and Washington watch out. The pride of this 'Lion' could attack the 'Fences' of 'Hacksaw Ridge' and 'Manchester By The Sea' by 'Moonlight'. It could even be an outside threat in taking down old Hollywood's 'La La Land' in the Oscars race this year off the Walk of Fame. Don't accept this hand? Then dance around this film and it's stirring subject for two hours, from pillar to post and from Academy favourites like Nicole Kidman and 'Carol's' Rooney Mara, to new international actors about to make acquaintance with acclaim, just like the awards season likes. Come one night in a February full of stars, this 'Lion' could be king.
'Lion' is about a boy on a train which won't stop for days. Running away from his brother, his family and the life he knew as a child. Based on the book 'A Long Way Home' of the true story of Saroo Brierley, this tragic tale lost in translation and found in raw, emotional redemption concerns the current plight of many lost children in India who find themselves torn from family and bound to poverty and the threat of abuction for profit and abuse that still happens to this day. This is all too real and this is one story of many, even if this one in a million mans journey has to be walked and told for both its sheer magnitude and gratitude of a life lived again and the voice it gives to others as we walk in the shoes of those who may never have an answer to a call home again. And we are taken to this calling with cinematic and dramatic brilliance from director Garth Davis. Who has gone from episodes of the critically acclaimed, Australian drama 'Top Of The Lake' to Academy nominations for one of this years best pictures. One portrait that is a vivid, visceral, emotional experience unlike any you'll find impossible to take your glazed eye from this year. Which will hopefully heal and help the current state of harm from hearts that seems worlds apart. And that's thanks to the soul of the dear performamces here. Just like the welled up passion of a perfect Patel who has never been better. And yes we've seen 'Slumdog'. But this afforded acting takes us a million miles more. All culminating in a heartbreakingly beautiful final scene that tenderly touches the rawest nerve of emotion. Once this caged lion is set free.
And that's what the Oscar should go to. Although there are many others that could take it. Just like the Academy graduated Rooney Mara. 'The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo' that showed positive 'Side Effects' when leaving 'The Social Network'. But until now has never looked this good in a leading role since starring alongside Cate Blanchett's 'Carol' last year. But here she is arguably just as good playing Patel's stand by her man love interest (their across the street, side-by-side flirtatious love is as sweet as it is sincere), all whilst showing her own independence just like she did alongside 'Manchester By The Sea' Best Actor favourite Casey Affleck in 'Aint Them Bodies Saints'. You have to love this spirit. Just like the one of '300' and 'Lord Of The Rings' star David Wenham in fostering fatherly mode. Or Abhishek Bharate brilliant as a beautifully loving brother, destined as an actor to find stardom. Just like the mothering of a moving Priyanka Bose. A role that 'Eyes Wide Shut' and 'Hours' legend Nicole Kidman-who last bowled us over mentally in 'Before I Go To Sleep'-adopts amazingly. The 'Australia' actress in the heart of down under takes us even deeper emotionally to a core of a mother that may be bilogical, but is as every bit as loving, all the way down to a celluar level. The weight Kidman carries with this representation of one who did even more is tremendous. But it's our introduction to the dawn of Sunny Pawar's career that may be the most potent and powerfully inspired. Sunny needs a nomination by the light of next day because he's set to see the stars too. This adorable child actor is also amazing too in his role you will feel it's real it's that raw and evoking. As much a 'Lion' as Patel, Pawar gives promise to all those poor children lost in real life that someone is watching out for them and care too. What this young man does for those who are often ignored is too brave to turn away from. Now hear him roar. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
See This If You Liked: 'Slumdog Millionaire', 'Australia', 'Wild'.