Anytime a well-established director steps out of his comfort zone it makes me sit up and take notice. Danny Boyle (Trainspotting and 28 Days Later) is a very successful director of sci-fi and thriller movies, so it is quite a change of pace for him to take on what is essentially a children's story with a twist. At no point during this film did I feel that Boyle had taken on more than he could handle. On the contrary, I think that he brought just the right amount of realism to a film that could have been dismissed as merely a fairy tale.
Millions is a story told from the lead character's, who is a 7-year-old boy, point of view. The tale begins with Damian (the excellent first time actor Alex Etel), Anthony (his 9-year-old brother) and their father, Ronnie (James Nesbitt) moving out of their home into a new house in the suburbs. It is an attempt at a fresh start for this young family as they are still suffering from the death of their mother/wife. Right from the beginning we see that Damian is not your average 7-year-old. He has a preoccupation with anything to do with the Catholic patron saints. This coupled with his very active imagination, leads to a number of wonderful scenes of Damian having discussions with St. Francis of Assisi, St. Peter, etc. Damian has trouble fitting in at school and as a result spends a lot of time playing on his own (or talking to the saints). He constructs a fort out of boxes down by the railroad tracks and one day while he's playing in it a suitcase full of British pounds, £229,320 to be exact, comes crashing down on the fort seemingly out of the sky. Damian sees the money as a gift from God.
Anthony convinces Damian that they cannot tell anyone about the money, not even their father "because of the taxes". He explains that the government will take 40 percent. It becomes a race against time for the two boys because the pound sterling is going to be converted into the euro in one week's time. This sets them off on an adventure that proves to them that it is hard for two young boys to spend a lot of money and even harder to try and do some good with it. Damian, after a discussion with Ambrosio (a Ugandan saint) decides that he wants to give his portion of the money to the poor. He begins by stuffing money into the mail slot of the neighborhood Mormons and treating the homeless to meals at Pizza Hut. Anthony, on the other hand, starts looking into investing the money into property in order to expand their capital. A woman from a charity organization comes to the boys' school and gives a talk on how just a little bit of money can make a large difference to many people elsewhere in the world. Well, this is exactly what Damian is looking for so he gives £1,000. Of course, this attracts the type of attention the two brothers are definitely not looking for. One day while he is in his cardboard fort, Damian has an encounter with one of the bank robbers, who is looking for that bag of money. This sets him and his brother off on a whole set of adventures and close calls.
It definitely was not a mistake for Danny Boyle to try his hand at a child's story. He has done it well. This is a movie the whole family can enjoy, but Boyle does not allow it to become a "light" film; the movie does explore faith, grey area morality and ethics. You can really see this director's interest in films about morals and how different human beings react to the responsibility of free will. The lead character in this film, Damian, struggles mightily to do what is right, even while everyone around him seems to be losing their heads, just like the lead character, Jim, did in 28 Days Later. Boyle's picture is infused with realism and he has included some very interesting camera angles and splashes of bright colours that really instill some depth into the picture. It sorta made me wish that Boyle was the director for the next Harry Potter movie. The only criticisms I can muster is that there were some holes in the story and I felt he was a bit heavy handed with his portrayal of the robber, but these are minor and did not take away from my enjoyment of the film.
Special DVD Features:
-Audio Commentary – Director Danny Boyle, writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, and star Alexander Etel discuss the story of Millions.
-Behind the scenes captions (this really captures the essence of the production).