Movie Review: MILLIONS (2004)

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MILLIONS
MILLIONS, 2004
Movie Reviews

Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring: Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, James Nesbitt
Review by MR Parodi

SYNOPSIS:

Millions is a funny and heartwarming story of two young English boys who have recently moved with their father, after the death of their mother. Damian, the youngest, discovers a bag filled with British Pound notes and shows his older brother, Anthony. England is about to join the European Union Monetary system, and the boys need to find a way to spend the money before it becomes obsolete. What will the boys decide to do with the money: invest it, donate it to the poor, or spend it frivolously?

REVIEW:

Danny Boyle revisits a familiar theme from his first two features, Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, in Millions – greed. This time around Boyle looks at it from a young pre-teen boys’ perspective, which makes for a delightful and entertaining comedy.

Millions begins with Ronnie (James Nesbitt) and his two boys packing up and moving out of their house, most likely due to the fact that their mother has recently passed away. Damian (Alex Etel) builds a cardboard fort by the train tracks near his new home, where he can fantasize about Saints, an obsession of his. Damian has memorized everything about every Saint. One day an enormous bag crushes Damian’s fort and it happens to be stuffed with British Pound notes. Damian shows the bag to his older brother, Anthony (Lewis McGibbon), and they decide not to tell anyone about the money due to “tax reasons”.

This decision marks the beginning of the movie’s conflict—Damian, the innocent and honest boy, wants to give the money to the poor, while Anthony views the money as a business opportunity. The boys must decide/think quickly because England is switching to the Euro currency within two weeks, and all British currency has to be converted, deposited in a bank account, or it will become useless. Anthony wants to invest in real estate, and Damian keeps giving the money away with the help of his imaginary Saints.

The boys find out through a schoolmate, whose father is a police officer, that an elaborate plan to steal money is the source of the bag that Damian found. The money was going to be burned by the government, but the thief threw out multiple bags of money from the train to be picked up later. The reality sharply contrasts with Damian’s belief that the bag was a miracle sent from God. Damian’s charitable actions then gain attention at school, and from a mysterious man who the boys run into at the train tracks by their house. The boys must reveal to their father, who is hardly around, that they found loads of cash. The mysterious man threatens Damian, who together with his family discovers how money can cloud one’s decisions and makes life difficult.

This film made me realize how much I enjoy Danny Boyle films. Boyle portrays the theme of greed in a fresh and whimsical way, which I found extremely interesting. The film is so contrary to Trainspotting, the only other Danny Boyle film I had seen when I first watched Millions, that it completely fulfilled and surpassed my expectations.

The characters and story, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, are amazingly enchanting. Damian is such an innocent boy that you can’t help but love him. Furthermore, Alex Etel fits the role perfectly and is very believable. At the same time, Anthony is my favorite of the two boys. The character is a wise older brother who may be a little too concerned with money, but nonetheless has a good heart. The story is funny, quirky at times, and surprisingly heartwarming. If you enjoy British humor, you will definitely enjoy this film. Boyce adapted the story into a novel during the production of Millions and it was awarded the Carnegie Medal. Moreover, the film has several special effects and eye candy, but it deals with real ideas and issues, making it more than just an entertaining family film.

The film also includes everything else that I love about Danny Boyle films. The visuals, complex theme, a great music score, and writing all stand out as great bits that put Boyle as an excellent part of film history. In addition, Boyle manages to switch genres effortlessly and create a fantastic family film that can entertain both children and adults.

Millions was received extremely well by critics, but is overlooked by many due to Boyle’s success in the Horror/Thriller genre. Roger Ebert, Richard Roeper, and Leonard Maltin all praised the film as one of the best of 2004 with its enchanting story. Millions is one of my favorites, and is always an uplifting experience to watch, deserving a four out of four stars rating in my book. This film won Best Director and Best Cinematography, and was nominated for five other categories. The screenwriter was nominated, and rightly so. Taken from a short story that first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1933 by Maurice Walsh, Green Rushes, Frank Nugent was able to weave a story rich in subtext and conflict.

The collector’s edition of the DVD includes an interview with Maureen O’Hara where she reminisces about filming The Quiet Man, and is well worth watching.

 

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