A well told story is further bolstered by some really well done special features.
Sometimes there was so much going on that the style of the movie got in the way of the rich storytelling.
Millions is the kind of movie that with a little bit more notice might just become a holiday classic. Sadly, the fact that it takes place in England might hurt it from becoming a film that enters the lexicon of American Holiday movies like It’s A Wonderful Life. However, there is a lot to be learned from this tale of two brothers and their single father. Alex, a seven year old who lives in his imagination, finds a bag of cash that fell from the sky. Believing that it has been sent from God he feels he must use it to help the poor. He shares this money with his brother Anthony who has a head for numbers and wants to use it to make investments so they can make more money. It turns out that this money isn’t from God at all and while I think this movie gets a bit uneven along the way, it is rich enough with strong themes and performances to get passed any cinematic shortcomings.
Alex Etel (Damian) and Lewis McGibbon (Anthony) are great in this movie that plays at times like a kindler, gentler movie version of the TV show “Malcolm In the Middle.” They both bring such depth to their performances and they really touch on the special bond between brothers. It is obvious that director Danny Boyle has made a film that is very close to his heart, and Millions seems like the type of movie that will appeal to people of all ages.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes and Audio Commentary Track
These “Behind the Scenes Featurettes” are broken up into 4 parts. They are 1) Million Pounds, 2) Saints, 3) Spirit of the Film and 4) Robbery. They each look at different aspects of the movie. From the idea of what one might do if they found a “million pounds,” to the “spirit” behind the story of Alex and Damian. How this movie examines life and growing up and how we change or remain who we are. I really appreciated the freewheeling style that these “mini documentaries” employed, and it was also cool hearing the actors give their takes on the material. The “Commentary Tracks” feature Danny Boyle and the screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce. While I don’t know that they say anything here that is that different than what we have come to expect on these commentary tracks, it is apparent that for both of these men this film is very personal. Also, it was interesting getting their takes on the characters of Damian and Anthony’s motivations.
DVD Cutdown and Deleted Scenes
I had never seen a “DVD Cutdown” before but what this is is an abridged version of this movie. It is just a series of scenes strung together with music. While I made the mistake of watching it before I actually screened the movie (forgive me, I thought it was a trailer), I was happy to see that this didn’t give everything away. The “Deleted Scenes” have titles like “Vat Man,” “Loft Saints” and “The Applicants.” Some of these are just extended moments of other scenes, and while I just breezed through these (I am just not a big deleted scenes person), I think that at 98 minutes Millions is a tightly woven film. In fact, they may have been able to shave off an extra 3 to 5 minutes, but this movie never seems to wear out it’s welcome.
Anamorphic Widescreen - 1.85:1. In the past I have often thought that Danny Boyle went a bit too heavily in the style department. What always saved me with his films was the fact that were was a lot of substance there. While his style is never more on display than it is in this film, I also don’t think he has ever utilized it as well as he has done here. Millions isn’t a kids film. It is a movie about kids and he expresses that in how everything is shaded. He captures the magic of childhood. How everything is big and wondrous and as we get older those things inevitably change and become more real. This movie looks amazing and save for a few scenes where I felt things got a bit jumbled, I think Boyle has made his best film to date.
Dolby Digital. English 5.1 Dolby Surround. Spanish Dolby Surround. Subtitled in English, Spanish and French. Close Captioned. Sadly, I had to watch this movie with the subtitles on. Well, actually, I started off this way and then I realized that for a Danny Boyle Movie, reading the screen is probably not the best way to go. So, I bit the bullet and just flew solo. There is no problem with the sound on this DVD (in fact, I really like the Spielberg-like soundtrack that was employed throughout the film), I just have a hard time understanding people who speak in thick accents. However, I made it through the film, I more than got the gist of what was going on so in that regard the sound and picture really work well together.
Alex Etel stands on a snowy street with money falling all around him. The expression on his face while somewhere between a smile and not a smile really sums up who the character of Damian is. Simply put, he believes in everything. The back features three shots from the movie and an almost animated picture of the brothers walking with a bag of money. There is a description of what Millions is about, a “Special Features” listing, a cast list and some technical specs. The packaging is simple but then again so is this movie so they work very well together.
My only real bone of contention with this film is that it seems to sort of go in many different directions before it ultimately ends. While for certain kinds of movies this really works well (most notably in the “thriller” genre), I found that it kind of lost me here. That said, none of this was enough to make me lose interest in Millions and make me not recommend this film to others. Everyone is so good in their roles that while the focus of this movie is Damian and Anthony, this movie truly is an ensemble piece.
If you are interested in kids films, family films and a movie that looks at Christmas a little differently, I would certainly recommend that you watch Millions. This is the kind of movie that is made to be watched over and over again.
Millions was released April 29, 2004.