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"I come bearing gifts of wooden cows
and bags of cash. Hellooooo?"

© 2005, Fox Searchlight
All Rights Reserved

After the death of their mother, 7-year-old Damien (a fantastic Alexander Nathan Etel) and his older brother Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibbon) move out to the English suburbs with their father (James Nesbitt) to start a new life. While playing near train tracks one day, Damien comes across a bag filled with money and concludes that God sent it down to him so he could help the poor. He informs his brother of the situation, and the two begin to spread the wealth; Damien to whomever he can help, and Anthony to himself. But as soon as Damien begins to see greed taking over his deeds, a violent man comes calling, claiming ownership of the money.

After depicting viral misery in his last film, "28 Days Later," director Danny Boyle has picked a film almost opposite in scope for his follow-up. "Millions" (IMDb listing) is an intimate story of compassion, greed, and the perils of honesty. In place of bloodthirsty zombies stalking the Earth, this film keeps its attention waist high, with a story seen through the eyes of a 7-year-old boy. Boyle has been pretty good at keeping his audience guessing throughout his career ("Trainspotting," "The Beach"), but "Millions" is his most peculiar film to date, and you can see the filmmaker struggle with this change of tempo.

"Millions" isn't just a static morality tale. It's a film filled with trademarked Boyle flourishes, including a rich envisioning of a child's imagination, appearances by various saints (Damien's hobby) and religious iconography, and a strict eye toward a child's sense of ethics. Boyle is the right man for this material, as his camera playfulness keeps "Millions" light and comfortable, assisted by a lovely score by John Murphy. With the initial discovery of the money and the spending-spree that accompanies it, Boyle does a fantastic job balancing the often fantastical comedy and the palatable mounting greed that comes with such access to cash. "Millions" is almost lyrical in the way it revels in this underage perspective, as if Boyle were living out his own money fantasies.

"Millions" does have a rather large heart, with Damien's innocent obsession to charity a common theme in the film. The script never gets too sentimental with Damien's generosity, or with the subplot centered on the death of his mother. Frankly, the places Boyle takes this tale late in the game might make one wish for a larger dose of sap. Boyle has worked the unexpectedly-flush-with-cash routine before in his feature debut, the thriller "Shallow Grave." "Millions" doesn't get anywhere near as dark as "Grave," but Boyle cannot resist the urge to throw in some thriller trappings in the form of a bank robber who wants his cash back. The character needlessly complicates things, while also taking away Damien's fascinating moral quandary for the final act, which is enough to fill an entire movie. "Millions" doesn't need thrills, or much reality for that matter. It coasts just fine when staying close to the characters and their unusual situation.

Filmfodder Grade: B

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