To say that director Danny Boyle has quite an eclectic resume for his directing filmography may be a bit of an understatement. After an impressive first feature in Shallow Grave, he moved on to the cult classic film about heroin addiction called Trainspotting. From there he took an interesting part for a film called A Life Less Ordinary, followed by directing a hot commodity named Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach. He took on an interesting zombie film called 28 Days Later, and that brings him up to the children’s film(?) called Millions.
Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Code 46), Millions tells the story of Damian and Anthony, who live with their father Ronnie, who is a recent widower. Damian and Anthony are both kids (7 and 9, respectively), and are even more isolated when Ronnie moves into a new suburb in England. Damian finds solace is his knowledge of saints, specifically their lives and what they did to qualify for sainthood. He takes some of the moving boxes and sets up a makeshift playhouse in the backyard away from the house, near some train tracks.
By and large, this isn’t too bad, but what does become a bit different in the mix of things is as a train goes by a large duffel bag containing several hundred thousands of british pounds lands in Damian’s box. He thinks that it is a gift from heaven, and since the pounds were to be devalued as part of a currency switchover to the Euro anyway, it was going to be destroyed. So no one’s worse for wear, right?
As it turns out, the money is a little bit more missed than we come to expect, as it was part of a heist, and one of the robbers comes around searching for it. However, Damian and Anthony have started spending some of the money. Anthony has spent it on some of the more material things in life, like sunglasses and other random things. Damian however, wants to spend the money on good things, or just give some of the money to the poor. That way, he can be like some of the more revered idols of his school, like Nelson Mandela or David Beckham.
What Millions does is that it’s as good a recent children’s film as you’re probably going to see. Even with Boyle’s eccentricities, he does manage to squeeze in some time to show off his visual style, and infuses the film with some dark humor in how the saints appear. But the story and the kids performances in their roles (their first feature film appearances) are home runs. Millions fits into two different areas, one of a great film for all ages, and another with a solid holiday theme worth revisiting every year.
Dolby Digital 5.1, which at first is kind of surprising, but as you watch the film, you notice that there’s quite a bit going on from a sonic point of view. Perish the thought, there’s even some LFE action that you wouldn’t normally expect. Daddy likey!
It’s a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen film (thank God for that), but the color palette is reproduced very well and there’s a wide variety of things to look at.
Boyle and Boyce contribute a commentary track that is a somewhat worthwhile complement to the film, as they recall the production of the film and the working relationship they enjoy. On the plus side Boyle and Boyce discuss a part of England where they shot the film that may very well be just down the road from my Aunt and Uncle, so now I’ve got a pilgrimage to make in the near future. There are a half hour of deleted and extended scenes that are not bad and in fact, probably could have been left in the final cut, but it’s OK that they aren’t. There are a few featurettes, but they’re quick and relatively painless.
Millions helps to further cement Boyle’s place as a quality director among today’s young group, and that his direction will improve just about any project. It is an excellent film that will be remembered long after you see it. If you are curious, rent it. Once you’ve rented it, you will buy it, I’m telling you.