Cast: Alex Etel, James Nesbitt
Director: Danny Boyle
Certificate: UK 2005, rt 98 mins Cert 12A,
Arguably Brit director Danny Boyle hasn’t eclipsed the heights of his first two films Shallow Grave and Trainspotting but his latest effort Millions is at least heading back in the right direction and is streets better than his futuristic effort 28 Days Later.
The film is really Boyle’s attempt to make a children’s adventure film for young teens and he sort of succeeds. The story is actually not that far different to Shallow Grave – in both there’s a bag of money that gets found by a group that don’t own it and the next question is what to do with it. In Shallow Grave of course, flatmates come across the money when someone staying (Keith Allen) dies and the film then shows dramatically how a fortune in a bag changes the flatmates. If you’ve never seen it, it’s well recommended.
Now see how Millions is similar. Young lad Damian (Etel) is a sweet little child, an 8-yr boy who perhaps improbably has learnt everything there is to know about every living Saint – and spouting off about them in class, you can perhaps wonder what his mates think – like, weirdo alert !! Damian though also talks to Saints, and makes a house out of a cardboard box in which he can talk to them. Boyle wisely goes for the Peter Jackson stylistic approach of Heavenly Creatures and makes the Saints come alive for Damian which is also easier for us watching.
Then out of the blue, a bag full of money gets thrown from a railway train onto Damian’s makeshift home – the sum comes to a small fortune – about £200,000 in notes – and whilst he and his 10yr old brother Anthony (Lewis McGibbon) figure out what to do with the money (Damian thinking it’s a ‘gift from God’) naturally we discover the money’s dodgy and dodgier people are coming looking for their stash - very much shades of Shallow Grave – albeit for a younger generation.
So what will Damian and Anthony do with it ? With Britain just 2 days away from converting to the Euro, according to Frank Cottrell Boyce’s arguably improbable script, the boys have got to get on and spend it. Damian thinks it should be spent on the poor (since it came from God) and rounds up local people living on the streets and takes them to Macdonalds for a slap-up meal, whilst Anthony is quick to spend it on a new Game Boy and BMX bike to impress the guys and gals back at his school. Naturally having a small fortune arouses attention – from both the local copper and a charity worker Dorothy (Daisy Donovan).
So what will happen ? Will the boys manage to spend the money before it's worthless? Will the school authorities discover what's going on? Or will the robbers get there first? Of course, I’m saying no more.
Money on the table then, Danny Boyle makes a perfectly decent stab at a young children’s film – the message – to use money to help those who are really needy is put across with a slightly too contrived and heavy-handed approach and in that, you perhaps have to look to both the director and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, a long-time writing partner of director Michael Winterbottom.
In the end what perhaps swings the film in the right direction the most, is the likeable performances of its child co-stars Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon, ably supported by the consistently good James Nesbitt in a cameo role.