The White Tiger

‘The White Tiger’ is a rags to riches story many have previously seen. It’s an oft-told tale of the underdog rising from an impoverished life to one of limitless dreams. Some may think ‘The White Tiger’, with its mostly Indian cast, is this decade’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. It has a few strands feeling familiar, but ‘The White Tiger’ has its own zesty energy. Based on Aravind Adiga’s 2008 novel, ‘The White Tiger’ is a captivating essay in determination and reaching for the stars.

Coming from a poor Indian village, Balram (Adarsh Gourav) wants a better life. Bluffing his way into meeting The Stork, one of India’s wealthiest people, Balram becomes a Chauffer for Stork’s son Ashtok (Rajkummar Rao) and his American raised wife Pinky (Chopra Jonas). Witnessing firsthand the attitudes the rich have over the poorer classes, Balram sets out to carve his own slice of their wealth. Events lead him along several unexpected avenues with the power of ambition driving him.

Directing from his own screenplay, Ramin Bahrani successfully teases out ‘The White Tiger’s’ emotional and physical strengths. He is well served by Gourav’s strong central performance. Balram is a character refusing to be trapped in a life his family have always known. Unlike others who are resigned to their fate, his aspirational ideals push him to grab opportunities. While the way he goes out doing so may potentially be morally wrong, Balram knows other people in similar circumstances would do exactly the same thing.

‘The White Tiger’ has a mix of styles key to its success. Drama, humour and a dash of action meld together to create a captivating narrative. Despite being somewhat drawn out, you can forgive any pacing issues due to the engaging story-telling. India’s vast vistas add much to this style, looking suitably stunning. The cinematography and story doesn’t shy away from the country’s harsher aspects but is no less interesting in how it forms the psyche of those living there.

Movies about chasing dreams any way possible continue to thrive. ‘The White King’ is the latest giving it another spin in a colourful way. Pursuing goals and achieving them is part of daily life, which is why films like ‘The White King’ thrive with audiences always daring to reach for the skies.

Rating out of 10: 8


Murder Mystery

Mention the phrase ‘an Adam Sandler movie’, all sorts of ideas come to mind. Many of them aren’t good considering the very broad style of comedy he uses. When he decides to give a strong performance, such as in ‘Punch Drunk Love’ and ‘Uncut Gems’, he can deliver the goods. Unfortunately he doesn’t do enough of that, mostly content in appearing in low-thinking works such as ‘Murder Mystery’. Nowhere in the same league as other comedy mysteries, ‘Murder Mystery’ offers miniscule mirth on a scale only Sandler can provide.

Nick (Adam Sandler) and Audrey (Jennifer Aniston) are a married couple enjoying a long-delayed honeymoon. On a plane to Europe, they meet wealthy stranger Charles (Luke Evans). Inviting them to him on his elderly Billionaire Uncle’s yacht, Nick and Audrey look forward to a fun time. None of that materialises when Charles’ Uncle is murdered. Framed for the crime, Nick and Audrey go on the run while trying to figure out “whodunnit”. With their honeymoon anything but magical, they come to realise that striving for marital bliss can sometimes be murder.

‘Murder Mystery’ is one of those films where you sit in the audience smiling and waiting to laugh. A few moments of genuine guffaws eventuate but not enough. The direction and writing is bland, with little imagination gone into crafting something new. The genres clichés pile up although ‘Murder Mystery’ has some fun scenes making it more bearable than other Sandler vehicles.

Although the story is mediocre, the performers seem to enjoy tackling the threadbare material. Sandler and Aniston share good comedic timing, with Aniston a consistently strong leading lady. The Italian locations are by far the film’s best asset. The chases and mayhem through its streets are wonderfully photographed, ensuring ‘Murder Mystery’ is a pleasure to watch in that sense.

There have been worse Adam Sandler movies with ‘Murder Mystery’ falling somewhere in the middle. Neither fish nor fowl, it’s an inoffensive, bland comedy with few laughs thrown in. Any creative failures won’t stop Sandler making these types of films with death, taxes and more Sandler productions a certainty in life’s strange cycle.

Rating out of 10: 4