Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 2/4/09.
After making a comeback with the 2002 zombie-inspired thriller 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle finally returned to the cinematic spotlight following the high-profile flop with 2000's The Beach. With Boyle now set to do whatever he wanted, a sequel for 28 Days Later seemed likely as Boyle instead let someone else take the reins for 2007's 28 Weeks Later which he produced and did some shooting for. Instead, Boyle decided to collaborate with Frank Cottrell Boyce, the screenwriter who wrote several films with another famed British director in Michael Winterbottom. Boyle and Boyce decided to collaborate on a project based on a book Bryce had written entitled Millions.
Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Millions tells the story of a seven-year old boy moving to a new suburb with his older brother and father following the death of his mother. One day, a bag of money is flung from a train as he is convinced that it's a gift from God. Wanting to use the money for good before everything turns to the Euro currency, the boy is forced to share the money with his selfish older brother while robbers are trying to retrieve for their own reasons. Starring Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, and as himself, Leslie Philips. Millions is an uplifting, inspiring film from the team of Frank Cottrell Bryce and Danny Boyle.
Following the death of their mother (Jane Hogarth), two young boys in Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) and 7-year old Damian (Alex Etel) move to a suburban area with their widowed father Ronnie (James Nesbitt). Damian's fascination with spiritual saints has him seeing them in his imagination. While Anthony thought that Damian's fascinations were baffling while Ronnie thought it was just childish. Damian's interest which included Latter-Day Saints neighbors in the suburb have increased his imaginations when one day, a bag of money is flown from the air and lands on his imaginary train. Showing Anthony the money, Damian wants to use it for good in his hopes to become a saint. Anthony however, wants to use it for his own reasons in getting cell phones and such.
With the money they have used for a limited amount of time as the pounds would quickly become useless as the Euro will start to arrive. Damian and Anthony learn about it during a seminar hosted by Dorothy (Daisy Donovan). Wanting to use the money for good, what he spent gets Damian in trouble along with Anthony as Anthony claims they stole the money from Mormons. Things get worse when Anthony learns that the money Damian found was stolen by robbers making Damian feel terrible. Even as a man (Christopher Fulford) is lurking around wanting to get the money. After befriending Dorothy, Ronnie invites her to dinner where Anthony feel suspicious.
During a Christmas play, the robber confronts Damien about the money where Damien tries to hide the money at his old home. After being picked up by Ronnie, their new home was robbed and ransacked as Ronnie learns about the money. Wanting to use it for his own reasons, Damien feels scared after the robber wants the money as Ronnie, Anthony, and Dorothy decide to go on a shopping spree and convert the money to Euros. It's in that moment that Damien learns a valuable lesson about money and wanting to do good.
The film is in several ways, a spiritual story with a message. Particularly on the subject of death and how one copes with it. While the story might lean towards sentimentality and the message about money and what wrongs it can bring can be a bit overbearing. Writer Frank Cottrell Boyce does create a story about a boy's fascination with saints and all of their stories about their own miracles. He often asks about his mother, who does eventually appear in the film. At the same time, the boy's fascination with saints and wanting to do good also gives him a harsh reality that some might not believe in miracles. The story is well-written as Bryce creates a coming of age story that follows a boy trying to understand miracles and what it takes.
Director Danny Boyle does a superb job with the direction by emphasizing on the imagination of a child. Starting off with a scene of a house being created shows Boyle's energetic, fluid direction as well as unique compositions to display the film's location and setting. Boyle always kept the camera on the boy to give the audience a point of view of the boy while creating a world around him. The robbery scene shows Boyle's genius in creating a scene that is energetic while maintaining its sense of imagination as it's told from a child's perspective. In many ways, it's a family film that's unconventional but with a strong message about miracles and faith that's wonderfully told by Danny Boyle.
Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle does a spectacular job with the film's look and camera angles as he maintains the colorful look of the suburban location near Manchester and other cities. Mantle's work is very different from his usual, hand-held, grainy, loose camera work for something more straightforward yet have the kind of energy and unique compositions that Boyle wanted. Editor Chris Gill does a great job with the editing with the use of rhythmic jump-cuts, wipe-transitions, and other cutting styles to maintain its sense of energy and imaginative tone for the film. Production designer Mark Tildesley along with set decorator Michelle Day and art directors Mark Digby and Denis Schnegg do an excellent job with the look of Damian's cardboard train and playhouse, the home that he lives in and the places he goes to.
Costume designer Susannah Buxton does a fine job with the costumes from the school uniforms the boys wear to the casual clothing that everyone else wears. Visual effects supervisors Peter Bach and Adam Gascoyne do great work in the visual effects look of the star above the sky, the creation of the houses, and other effects to emphasize on the film's imagination. Sound editor Glenn Freemantle does brilliant work with the film's sound to capture the energy of the robbery, the atmosphere of kids playing, and the imaginative world of Damian. Music composer John Murphy creates a light-hearted score filled with somber melodies and arrangements to emphasize on the film's innocence. Along with music from Feeder, Muse, the Clash, and traditional music for the film's varied, energetic moments and innocent scenes.
The casting by Beverley Keogh and Gail Stevens is wonderful with small appearances from Enzo Clienti as St. Francis, Alun Armstrong as St. Peter, Nasser Memarzia as St. Joseph, Mark Chatterman as the school headmaster, screenwriter Frank Cottrell Bryce as the theater teacher, and renowned British actor Leslie Phillips as himself in a commercial for the Euro conversion as he's joined by Page 3 model Jo Hicks. Other notable small performances from Jane Hogarth as Damian and Anthony's mother, Pearce Quigley as a community policeman, and Christopher Fulford as the robber are memorable as is Daisy Donovan as Dorothy, the woman who would become Ronnie's new girlfriend much to Damian's excitement and Anthony's suspicions. Veteran actor James Nesbitt does an excellent job as the widowed father who is trying to give his sons a better life while starting anew only to deal with a robbery where his emotions and pride gets the best of him.
Lewis McGibbon is great as Anthony, the older brother who just wants the money for his own reasons yet is really hiding the pain of his mother's death as he tries to deal with his younger brother's fascination with saints. Finally, there's Alex Etel as Damian who delivers a superb performance as a boy believing in saints. Etel's performance really captures the film's sense of imagination as it's done with such wonderment and curiosity that it's a true, natural performance. Etel's performance is really the soul of the film that manages to keep the audience engaged into the story and his development while maintaining his sense of faith.
While the film may not be as gritty as Trainspotting or Slumdog Millionaire, Millions is still a captivating film from Danny Boyle with help from writer Frank Cottrell Boyce. While some might not enjoy the film's sentimental tone and religious message, it's a film that is still inspiring and has something to say that is relevant to audiences. While it's not a conventional family film, it's one that doesn't cheapen itself into mush or any kind of family film hijinks. In the end, Millions is an inspiring, hopeful, and powerful film from director Danny Boyle and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce.
Danny Boyle Films: Shallow Grave - Trainspotting - A Life Less Ordinary - The Beach - 28 Days Later - Sunshine - Slumdog Millionaire - 127 Hours - Trance - Steve Jobs (2015 film) - T2 Trainspotting - (Yesterday (2019 film))
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