Prayer Focus
Movie Review

MILLIONS

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, language, some peril and mild sensuality

Reviewed by: Jonathan Wooten
CONTRIBUTOR


Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family, kids
Genre:
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Length:
1 hr. 37 min.
Year of Release:
2005
Featuring: James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, Kolade Agboke
Director: Danny Boyle
Producer: Andrew Hauptman, Graham Broadbent, Damian Jones
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Copyright, Fox Searchlight
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Relevant Issues
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Are you a good person? Answer

Can anyone be truly good?

This is a heartwarming story about a British family in transition after the mother’s recent death. Like a lot of kids Damian (Alexander Etel) spends much of his time daydreaming. Unlike a lot of kids he happens to be quite knowledgeable about the Bible and also has an unusual hobby. He has imaginary conversations with Catholic saints. It becomes evident that this is his way of coping when we see him ask them if they have met his mother in heaven.

The plot kicks into gear when Damian is greeted with a large bag of cash that literally falls from the sky. Damian calls it a gift from God and quickly establishes himself as the film’s moral compass. He resists the pleadings of his selfish big brother and decides that the money should be given to the needy. But there’s a catch. The UK is on the verge of switching to the Euro so time is of the essence. The two boys embark on a series of humorous attempts to quickly disburse the funds.

There is a twist when Damian learns that the money is ill gotten booty from a train heist. He wants to return it and his non religious but honest father agrees. But when the family home is robbed on Christmas Eve his bitter dad quickly changes heart. Finally, the story climaxes and moral lessons are learned when a sinister foe returns to the scene of the crime.

Spiritual Issues: Millions is loaded with religious and Biblical content. It isn’t the first movie to visualize 1st Timothy 6:3 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”. Millions is unique though because it reveals Biblical truths overtly and with complete sincerity. It is refreshing to see a film where a character who speaks of God and the Bible becomes the hero and not a comedic punching bag.

The boy attends a Catholic school where he is taught about the Saints. The scenes involving the saints are done with a touch of irreverence. The nun St. Clare is seen smoking what appears to be (but is not acknowledged as) a joint. A beheaded martyr also jokes about his later execution. While we never see the imaginative young Damian praying to them it is important to read what the Bible says about this. Quite simply the Bible says that it is wrong. Deuteronomy 18:10-12—“Let no one be found among you who… who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord…” Those with a Catholic background might feel comforted by their perceived relationship with someone like St. Peter for example. But the fact that such a relationship is not even possible is just one of many things wrong with the concept. God wants us to have a relationship with Him and His Son Jesus. We can admire the life of Peter and the example he set in leading others to Christ and furthering God’s kingdom. We can also definitely gain comfort in reading his letters and seeing how God aided him in his travels and trials. But if we elevate any person to a level where they come between us and God that is idolatry and something Peter him self called pagan (1st Peter 4:3).

“Millions” does have some positive spiritual moments. Damian references God several times. When he learns of the money’s origins and decides to return it he explains frankly to his father and selfish brother that “God doesn’t rob banks!” Much of the film is set around Christmas (so much so that one wonders why it was released in March). But the season is used as more than just a sentimental backdrop. While rehearsing for the school nativity play an attentive Damian is not satisfied with his teacher’s rehashing of the tale and offers his own opinions about Joseph’s state of mind. This is one weird kid.

Fans of Boyle’s previous work (“Trainspotting,” “28 Days Later”) are probably curious to see what he can do within the confines of a PG movie. He is a gifted director but has not shied away from graphic material in the past. Those concerned about objectionable content will not find much to offend here though. There is very little violence (a short robbery scene, a very brief moment of a child in peril). Sexual content includes a glimpse of an unmarried couple in bed together as well as pre-pubescent boy viewing an internet lingerie add. When played out the latter scene actually has a strange wholesomeness to it considering his other viewing options. The only profanity is some mild British slang. There is one use of the Lord’s name in vain (by St. Peter of all people). This same character also offers a folksy twisted account of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Those not familiar with the miracle should read the correct version of events documented in the four gospels.

Despite the above instances I would still recommend the film. Boyle may not have brought his usual edge to this project but his trademark eye popping visuals are here in full force. He also skillfully straddles the line between sweet and saccharine. The film is not without faults. Other movies have done a more focused job of showing that money will not necessarily bring happiness (see the dark, but superb “A Simple Plan”). Playing the father the talented James Nesbitt (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”) is not given much screen time. We mostly have to assume what this widower is going through emotionally and the romantic relationship formed in the film feels a bit contrived.

One can hardly blame the director though for centering the story around young Damian. At age nine Alexander Etel carries the film. Things could have ended up horribly corny with a lesser talent. Alexander avoids the pitfalls that plague most child actors by essentially not “acting”. He is the anti Haley Joel Osment. A kid who actually looks and talks like a kid. This is his dramatic debut.

Year of Release—2004

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—…I have to say that I found this movie completely enjoyable. When I heard critics trash “Pay It Forward” as manipulative, but appreciated as a DVD, I thought that a movie teaching morals would be good television material but not big-screen material. I was wrong. Every moment, every encounter, every revelation will keep you interested in what will come of Damian and the money. The association with the saints was good for the most part. It would teach one about the goodness of giving, but also the difficulties too.

[***spoilers in next paragraph***] I think there may be some people, especially Catholics, who would take objection to some depictions of the saints; like St. Agatha lighting up (was that a cigarette or a thick joint?), St. Peter cursing and disproving one of Jesus’ miracles, and the Ugandan saints, though one of the better-depicted saints, showing his decapitation wound. If there’s one saint depiction I liked most, it was St. Nicholas as he appeared in a bishop’s uniform, not in Santa Clause garb as one would expect. So for the most part, I highly recommend Millions. It was loaded with charm and it was a very encouraging and optimistic movie.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
—Jon, age 32
Positive—My wife and I took our son and daughter (12-year-old twins) to see “Millions,” and though the movie had many positive elements, we found ourselves wishing that Christian reviewers had warned us more clearly about other elements which our kids found distressing. Multiple scenes depicted close-up images of scantily-clad women. Our daughter commented afterward that this cast a sleazy feeling over the whole movie and made it hard for her to feel normal even about the other women in the movie who dressed decently.

Also, though the movie has very little violence, it has a constant atmosphere of threatened violence or vague menace toward a young child—communicated through scary music, shadows, camera angles, etc. Our children commented afterward the the movie “weirded me out.”

On the positive side, the movie dealt with issues of faith in a refreshing way. As an evangelical Protestant, I wished not just for less emphasis on talking with saints (much less smoking/cussing saints!), but also for more emphasis on Jesus. The movie is strongly faith-affirming, but it affirms a Christianity which has very little to say about Christ and nothing at all to say about his cross and resurrection through which (as both Catholics and Protestants agree) we receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Despite these nitpicks, my overall review of this movie is still positive.

It addressed some important issues about faith, providence, greed and concern for the poor. For me the most inspiring moment was “seeing” the 19th-century Ugandan martyrs—heroes of the faith who are too rarely mentioned by us Protestants—and being challenged by the Ugandan martyrs to remember the poor of Africa. I only wish I had been warned in advance of some of the elements in the movie which my kids said “weirded them out” or made them feel “sleazy.”
My Ratings: Better than Average/3
—Joseph, age 45