Millions takes place in some parallel universe in which the British pound is soon to be replaced by the Euro. Furthermore, the switch is due to take place immediately after Christmas thereby confirming that this is a film which can only be viewed as fantasy. It even comes with a score which immediately brings to mind Danny Elfman’s more enchanting compositions, some stop-motion imaginings and a more general visual style best described as impish such is its enthusiasm and sense of adventure.
Consider these elements and you may very well conjure up memories of an earlier Danny Boyle venture, 1997’s A Life Less Ordinary. Yet in combination they also add up to the perfect sensibility for a kid’s film. Indeed, Millions is viewed solely through a child’s eyes; its central plotting device – the discovery of a vast sum of money – may also recall another Boyle effort, his cinematic debut Shallow Grave, but then that film didn’t place its fortune in front of a pair of brothers, one of whom is only eight years old, the other ten.
Importantly, the kids in question have recently lost their mother (an explanation is never provided) which results in them moving to a new house and a new school. As such we find the film imbued with a sense of wonder as they enter this newly created suburbia, an alien environment marked by its cleanliness and distinctive purple wheelie bins. (The obvious debt to Edward Scissorhands is acknowledged by Boyle in his audio commentary.) Yet at the same time this is also a distinctly British creation as you’d expect from a film which James Nesbitt and Daisy Donovan occupy the leading adult roles.
Not that the grown-ups ever properly encroach on the children’s world, however. We have “the Man” (as he’s credited) coming to reclaim his money (it’s revealed that the cash in question has emerged from a train robbery, not a miracle as our eight year old believes), plus assorted policeman, teacher and, of course, their father, yet Millions never breaks with the kids’ viewpoint. From within this world threats manifest themselves differently as do interpretations of events. Plus there’s an alternative kind of knowingness which brings with it a great charm; this is a film in which the kids appear to know – and have an answer for – everything simply because, in their own heads at least, they do.
Yet this viewpoint has an odd effect inasmuch as it makes Millions seem as much like a superior television offering (the BBC, unsurprisingly, contributed to the financing) as it does a film made for cinemas. That said, this appears to suit Boyle especially well – after all his is a career which has encompassed Inspector Morse, Mr. Wroe’s Virgins and Strumpet as well as Trainspotting and 28 Days Later…. Likewise, screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce has proven with Revengers Tragedy for Alex Cox and 24 Hour Party People for Michael Winterbottom just how flexible he can be, even within a single film. As such we have a piece which acts like a much sharper, far smarter Children’s Film Foundation offering. Indeed, were it not for the ‘12’ certificate (the result of a drug reference early on – though it’s doubtful that younger audiences would be able to formulate any kind of connection), Millions would be the perfect candidate for kid’s film of the year.
Millions comes to Region 2 in the kind of form you’d expect of such a recent movie. Its presentation is decent enough and it’s backed up by a healthy collection of extras, including some which don’t appear on the Region 1. Anyhow, to begin with the visual dimension, the film comes in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, anamorphically enhanced. For the most part it’s without problem: the colours are as vivid as you’d expect and the clarity’s there. However, sometimes the sheer garishness of a number of scenes does make the image a little too harsh, whilst instances of aliasing do appear on the rare occasion. As for the soundtrack, here we find a DD5.1 mix which has far less to contend with. It remains clean and crisp throughout and copes ably with both dialogue and John Murphy’s fantastical score.
Taking the extras in order of interest, the major addition is the commentary by Boyle and Cottrell Boyce. Though they undoubtedly run out of things to say by the time the film has reached its conclusion, they nonetheless offer up a generous and relaxed track which clearly demonstrates just how much they enjoy the end result. Elsewhere we find nine deleted/extended scenes totally half an hour’s worth of footage. Of course, these vary in quality and quantity, but it’s intriguing to see how a subplot over Daisy Donovan’s motives would have darkened the film’s adult side a little further.
Two pieces which didn’t make themselves known on the Region 1 are 10 minutes worth of audition tapes and a short animation by Sharon Colman entitled Badgered. The former is fairly self-explanatory and too obviously going for cuteness, but the latter is a little charm of a film. About a badger who is initially hassled by a pair of crows and then some nuclear weapons, it bears little actual resemblance to Millions itself, but nonetheless proves just as enjoyable.
Rounding off the package we also find four ‘behind the scenes’ featurettes which cover different aspects of the film in a fairly standard EPK fashion. (As the their respective titles suggest – ‘Million Pounds’, ‘Saints’, ‘Spirit of the Film’ and ‘Robbery’ – it’s a safe guess as to what they revolve around.) Plus there’s a four-minute version of the film – though it’s difficult to ascertain exactly why this was created – and a promo for Water Aid, a charity which features heavily in the film itself.
8 out of 10
8 out of 10
9 out of 10
6 out of 10