Boyle does Sterling Work
"Millions" is the sort of movie which lets you appreciate what a directing genius Danny Boyle is, who I have on occasion thought has been over rated. But what he does with "Millions" is sublime because this is a movie which delivers an adult storyline about money but through the eyes of children without making it dumb, it has his sense of off beat comedy yet not the sort of comedy which children can't watch plus it also has brilliant visuals as well as drama. In fact it has pretty much everything including a funny cameo from Leslie Phillips. But the cleverness of it is that this inoffensive comedy drama is that this adult story told through a child's eyes is compelling viewing because you're never sure of what will happen next, in fact it is so unpredictable that working out how it's going to end is impossible.
Having just moved into a brand new home with his brother and father, young Damian (Alex Etel) finds himself with a bag full of money when it crushes the play house he has built near a train line. Telling his brother about this sack of cash they can only agree that they should keep it a secret from adults as Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) sees it as a way of getting what ever he wants whilst Damian, who has a thing for Saints, looks at it as a way of doing good. But with time running out before the Sterling switches over to the Euro matters get more complicated as does the fact that the money is from a robbery and the robber is looking for it.
One of the strengths of "Millions" is that it is a storyline which evolves and keeps evolving in ways that cannot be predicted. So after the wonderfully visual opening which ends with Damian, Anthony and their father moving to a new home and new school what we know is that there mum has died and Anthony uses the fact to get what he wants. But then you have the introduction not only of the bag of money landing almost literally into Damian's lap but you also have the introduction to him talking to dead people in particular saints who inspire him. It is quite simply very off beat and that sense of being off beat continues through out the entire movie.
All of this is really just the set up to the first part of the movie to show different perspectives on wealth. We watch as Damian sees having money as a chance to do good whilst Anthony sees it as a way of getting what he wants and make more money via investment, leading to the amusing scene where he fools an estate agent into showing him around an apartment. But "Millions" evolves again as we learn the money came from a robbery and The Man whose money it is is onto them and in particular Damian. Yet it doesn't stop there and once again it evolves a step further bringing in another element of what money can do to people and gives us a series of amusing scam scenes. All of which then leads to a surreal and totally unpredictable ending, and surreal is important because "Millions" is a movie which sort of starts real and becomes more fantasy like the longer it goes one.
Now what is so fascinating is that "Millions" is basically a story told through a child's eyes and in particular that of Damian, yet it is really quite an adult drama. There is adult dialogue about money, about mortgages, equity, investment and capital which when delivered by two young boys strangely sounds right yet also amusing. The same can be said when it comes to the scam and robbery elements of the story as it is a very adult style story element but then with it being delivered via children is quirky and amusing. It is down to the skill of Danny Boyle and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce that this quirky blend of adult drama through children's eyes works without ever becoming juvenile.
It is also down to Boyle's skill that the offbeat comedy and the equally offbeat visuals works so well. There is almost something quite Tim Burton about certain visuals none more so that when we see their house being built around them but it works without feeling like it's a copy. In fact all of it works from a talking charity bin through to the appearance of various Saints, and when you have a saint who turns up in a nuns outfit with a fag hanging from their lip it is certainly amusing. As is the wonderful cameo from Leslie Phillips as he appears in countdown commercials for the change over from Pounds to Euros.
Now whilst you can never go wrong with James Nesbitt who plays the boys father Ronnie it is the two young boys who plays Damian and Anthony who are the stars. And Alex Etel who plays Damian and Lewis McGibbon as Anthony are so natural and confident that you become captivated by them, how they interact and deliver their lines. These are two performances not of precocious child stars but of two lads on the street who bicker and have fun with a bag full of money. It's because it is so natural that you forget that these are young children who had little or no acting experience prior to "Millions".
What this all boils down to is that "Millions" is a stunning movie and shows that as a director Danny Boyle can turn his hand to almost anything. There is so many positives and so few negatives about "Millions" that you wonder why it's not mentioned in the same breath as "Slumdog Millionaire" as it is that good and sort of works as a companion piece to "Shallow Grave" with both covering the element of money.