Judge Ryan Keefer wonders how a family movie about heroin-addicted zombies would look. He doesn't get a lot of free time, and he spends it poorly.
"What did you bring a thousand pounds to school for? Can't you see
Millions is a family film directed by Danny Boyle, whose previous works include Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, and features two young boys as its leads, including one with freckles that appears to be straight out of a painting. So with Boyle's newest attempt, is this a failed experiment or another great effort from an emerging talent?
Facts of the Case
Two young boys, along with their recently widowed father, move to a new part of England and start going to a new school. The younger of the two boys, Damian (Alexander Atel, in his debut), uses the boxes from the move to set up a rudimentary fort near some railroad tracks. One day, a duffel bag lands on his fort. He opens the bag, and finds it full of British pounds that will be destroyed as part of a changeover to the Euro. While his brother Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibbon, in his film debut) thinks it should be spent, Damian, who studies quite a bit on Saints throughout history, thinks the money should go to the poor. Unfortunately, the boys find out that the money was stolen as part of a robbery, and one of the robbers wants it back.
There are moments in a film that define a character far beyond the 100 or 150 minutes that a film allows. And the scene that shows how both Anthony and Damian spend their first 100 pounds crystallizes each individual's personality. Anthony buys material things, while Damian does a liberating act for some less fortunate creatures that is so poignant, it's as moving as I remember it while typing this.
With the way the story flows, it actually enhances Boyle's direction, and he gets a chance to use a lot of his camera style from previous films. A scene where Damian and Anthony are sitting in the lot that will be their new home provides for some computer generated construction that could be confused for a scene in a David Fincher film. The sequences that illustrate the robbery details shows gritty, oversaturated colors and some handheld use, along with other shots that appear to have previously used in Boyle's 28 Days Later. Some people have said that the Saints that are portrayed in the film may be done unfairly, but the tongue in cheek way that some appear is cute and funny for the adult viewer. There are some moments of dark humor that adults will laugh at. Anthony's keen financial eye even on the basic things (such as almost exploiting the death of their mother to get free candies) has some perverse chuckles to them. The tone of the movie changes when a robber visits the boys and starts to probe for the money, but the boys manage to evade him with some luck. Could it possibly be fate, or is it part of Damian's road to Sainthood?
It's kind of ironic that the boys have such religious surnames like Anthony and (gasp!) Damian. Maybe it's a harmless poke of fun, or it's just consistent with the biblical subtleties that the film has. The priorities of the school where they go seem to be moderately out of whack, as idols such as Nelson Mandela and David Beckham grace the school's halls. This film couldn't have been made by an American studio, as they would over-manipulate the audience and hold their hand on every step of the way. Boyle and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce trust viewer to have a lot more intelligence than that, and it's rewarded in spades. Overall, the film has enough touches of Boyle in it that you remember who's directing it, and his direction provides some transcending moments of emotion that are enjoyed by viewers of all ages.
For bonus material, things are a little light, but it's a forgivable sin. Boyle and Boyce reunite for a commentary track for the movie that is equal parts technical information, anecdotes, and thoughts on the film. Boyle identifies the moment where he wanted to work on the film (which was the moment I thought it was), and there are interesting regulations on British film productions that are discussed that are intriguing. Overall, it's an enjoyable, entertaining commentary. Next are deleted, extended, and alternate scenes, 10 totaling just over a half hour in length. Some of the scenes are pretty entertaining, such as Damian's search for more poor people, and a nice dream sequence, both of which could probably have been included in the final cut. Aside from smaller looks at a trailer, a spot for the soundtrack and a summarized version of the film, there's a behind the scenes look at the film. It's broken into several three to four minute segments with no "Play All" feature to choose from, but it provides a decent look at the production that Boyle may not have covered in the commentary.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Some people may look at parts of the film as a little predictable and conventional, but they are evil, cynical people who should be forced to watch It's a Wonderful Life repeatedly until they get the lesson.
Honestly, if you put this film against another recently released holiday film on video (namely The Polar Express), this film is the one that has a better chance of being viewed several times, and is a great mix of humor and emotion, wrapped in a warm blanket of vision by Boyle. It's excellent and helps bring Boyle into the forefront of accomplished directors.
A hearty not guilty for the filmmakers, along with the hopes that a bag of money falls out of the sky in front of this judge's home, so he can enjoy Damian's experiences on an even more personal level.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Director Danny Boyle and Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce
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