Millions will knock you out with its visual mastery… and the brilliance doesn’t end there. The end result is one of the most enchanting feel good films in recent history. Everything done in Director Danny Boyle’s masterpiece is perfectly executed. This includes some of the most dazzling and creative visual effects ever captured on film, combined with the energetic and creative mind of a special little boy.
The imagination is something often neglected in the eyes of filmmakers. Danny Boyle makes sure he doesn't fall victim to that trend as he explores the heart and soul of a pleasantly uplifting 7-year old boy in Millions. The story begins with Damian (Alexander Nathan Etel), his 9-year old brother Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibbon) and their father Ronnie (James Nesbitt) moving from their home to a new neighborhood.
Damian builds a playhouse out of the cardboard boxes used to move into their new suburban Liverpool home. It is a quiet little gated community—perhaps a sampling of the film’s lesson on materialism and greed. However, it won’t be a normal community for long. While hanging out in his cardboard playhouse, a duffle bag of money bounces from the railroad tracks and comes crashing down. Damian, obviously stunned, does what most in his circumstance would do. He tells the person he is closest to about what has happened… his brother.
The dilemma from this point is in the struggle between the two boys. Anthony wants to spend the money and invest it for their own personal wealth. He claims that they cannot tell anyone about it or the government will take it. “They’ll tax 40 percent of it,” Anthony explains.
Damian, however, is a unique kid with a heart of gold. His imagination runs wild as he vividly sees many historical patron saints, who he calls out by name and years. “St. Peter, died A.D. 64,” he proclaims. Damian asks the first saint that appears in the film if she has seen a St. Maureen. This is the name of the boys’ mother who we learn early in the film has just recently passed away. Damian’s struggles with the death of his mother are apparent. This can be expected as everything about Damian’s character represents that of an unusually charming young man. If only the rest of the world had half the love he portrays.
Damian is told by one of the saints that he “…can just help the poor.” And that is exactly what Damian wants to do. It begins with him and Anthony taking a group of poor people out for pizza. Then, with the help of St. Nicholas, Damian stuffs handfuls of money into the mail door of a group of Mormons. In the meantime, Damian is living large at school. He gets first dibs on everything--from going to the front of the line to having school mates ride him to school on their bikes.
Of course, where there is money, there is someone bound to be looking for it. Enter the man in the black coat and toboggan. The man shows up at Damian’s playhouse looking for the money. “I don’t know you,” proclaims Damian in a tone that insinuates the man is another saint. With Anthony’s help, the boys steer the man away, but not enough to keep him away forever.
The other interesting storyline exists in the attraction between the boys’ dad and a woman who goes around schools collecting money for the development of a water whale in an African village. Damian is instantly intrigued by the lady. Perhaps, this is because he sees her as a potential replacement for his deceased mother. That is purely speculation on my part, but it is clear that Damian misses the motherly figure he was so accustomed to having.
The story is so unusually enthralling that it is difficult to stop explaining it without giving away too much information. However, my job is to give the basics and for that reason I must stop here (as difficult as it is).
Millions appears to have the same basic premise as the film A Simple Plan. In that film, two brothers find a bag of money near a wrecked airplane. They are put into their own dramatic dilemma as to what to do with the money. But the films are also completely different in style and method. While A Simple Plan is geared toward adults, Millions is a family feature in every aspect. The beauty is that, in most cases, adults might fall in love with it more so than their children, mainly because of the intellectual approach of the dialog, leaving us in breathless anticipation of what might happen next.
This is a film that explores issues of greed and materialism. It keeps us honest in the way it makes us ponder our own personal wealth. What would we do if such a situation arose? There is unquestionably a political agenda at hand. Yet, it is also a film about young men. It is a film about fatherhood. And it is a film about making the right decisions in life.
Nearly everything about Millions is flawless. I haven’t even commented on the great performances of Nesbitt and Daisy Donovan. The two main adults in the film flourish in every aspect. The charm of a young man named Damian, however, is so breathtaking that it is hard to describe in words.
These types of challenging films are why I am such a big movie fan to begin with. A man with a unique and new vision (Danny Boyle) hits all the right chords. Unfortunately, the film will be overlooked come Oscar time for two obvious reasons. It was released too early in the year and it is likely too family oriented. Don’t let that fool you. This is easily one of the best films of 2005.
The first special feature is the traditional commentary. In this case it is done by director Danny Boyle and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce. The next feature is a musical video that acts as a basic summary of the film in chronological order. This is a very cool feature that helps you relive the entire film in approximately 3 minutes and 45 seconds. There is a short 30 second clip to promote the film’s elegant soundtrack that exists as well. In addition there is one theatrical trailer that lasts around 2 minutes and 20 seconds.
Next comes four behind the scenes features. The first is called “Million Pounds” and is basically a short feature explaining the storyline. Interesting comments from the filmmakers and actors are present, including the two young boys (Etel and McGibbon). The second special feature is “Saints”, which elaborates somewhat on the origin of how Boyle came up with the idea of inserting the saints into the picture. It also describes in great depth one of the most elegant scenes of the film in which Damian releases birds from a box into the sky. “Spirit of the Film” discusses the importance of the two adult leads in the film, James Nesbitt and Daisy Donovan. Boyle admits that the two actors were among the first people he thought of when reading the script. The final featurette is titled “Robbery" which, or the sake of revealing too much information about the film, I will refrain from elaborating on.
The special features wrap up with ten very lively deleted scenes, most of which are unable to be described without indulging too much information. Some of the deleted scenes would have clamored the film with unnecessary space. Others might have helped explain later events that surround the film. Overall, there is about 25 minutes of deleted footage. The most interesting scene, and I urge you to watch at least this one scene after viewing the film, is called Loft Saints. Although, I can’t discuss what happens without revealing some spoilers, what I can say is this one deleted scene gives a much different idea of Damian escaping a seemingly tricky situation.
Without question, a wonderful DVD with a nearly perfect amount of special features exists for Millions. There is not too little that it displays a lazy effort and not too much that there is a sense of information overload. The movie and special features are on one disc, which is always a plus. Rank this up there as a film and DVD that should be placed in your personal library. Go buy it now and feel your heart with warmth and enchantment.