"Millions" Provides Opportunity to Discuss Christian Faith
- 2005 1 Apr
Release Date: April 1, 2005
Rating: PG (for thematic elements, language, some peril and mild sensuality)
Run Time: 95 min.
Director: Danny Boyle
Actors: Alex Eitel, Lewis McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan and Christopher Fulford
Damian and Alex Cunningham (Alex Eitel and Lewis McGibbon) may have lost their mother, but they know exactly how to turn that tragic fact into treasure. “Our mum died,” they mumble, whenever they want to stay up late, eat junk food or just get their way. Alex, 9, is the more savvy of the two brothers, while Damian, 7, is obsessed with church history – particularly the saints. So when a duffle bag full of money comes flying out off a passing train near their home, it’s not surprising that Damian assumes the money is from God and begins doling it out. After all, he sees himself as a bit of a saint too, and there are an awful lot of people who insist that they are poor, as soon as they realize Damian is loaded. Alex, on the other hand, sees great personal opportunity with the money, and sets himself up with bike rides to school and four sunglass-wearing “bodyguards.”
Not surprisingly, however, it isn’t long before someone shows up looking for the cash – and it isn’t the most friendly-looking guy on the planet. After all, it’s 2007, the eve of England’s national currency conversion, and everyone has mere days to exchange their Pounds Sterling for Euros. This duffle bag of pounds, which was destined for destruction, instead found itself in the hands of thieves who now want their money back. And thanks to Damian’s loose lips and unthinking generosity, they’re led straight to the Cunningham residence. The only problem is, much of the cash has already been spent.
“Millions” is an interesting detour for director Danny Boyle, who is best known for his widely successful adult films, “28 Days Later,” “The Beach” and “Trainspotting.” Clearly aimed at a family audience, “Millions” offers a thoughtful message about the destructive power of money. It demonstrates how the love of money corrupts even those with the best intentions, causing them to forsake conscience for greed. Not content to simply give us a negative message, however, as many films do, “Millions” also offers a way out. Redemption, it tells us, comes not when we hoard money, but when we give it away, to those who are truly in need.
It’s a wonderful message presented within a strong, cohesive narrative that is alternately funny and suspenseful. Boyle does an excellent job, having coaxed compelling performances from his two child actors. Eitel, who makes his screen debut in this film, is particularly winsome with his wholesome goodness, especially when he meets the various saints he admires and asks them for advice. Screen veteran James Nesbitt gives an interesting performance as the boys' father, a man who knows right from wrong and insists on taking the money to the police station – until he sees exactly how much cash is involved. Likewise, Daisy Donovan is credible as Dorothy, the non-profit director of a national charity who charms her way into the boys' lives through their father. Also outstanding is the film’s cinematography with its vivid greens, blues and reds that appear to jump off the screen.
Unfortunately, the film contains some wholly unnecessary additions that are likely to upset Christians. One of the female saints, conjured through Damian’s active imagination, smokes a joint with the boy while dispensing wisdom (although the drug is not obvious). Saint Peter uses the profanity, “for Christ’s sakes,” then goes on to explain that the miracle of the loaves and fish was not a miracle at all. With no lack of superiority for those who believe otherwise, he insists everyone in that hillside crowd just happened to have plenty of fish and bread in their pockets for lunch, but were too polite to say so. So all 5,000 people, Peter says, “pretended” to take some fish from the basket, then passed it on.
Naturally, Jesus’ devout disciple does not explain why this pertinent little fact managed to be overlooked by all the disciples and the Gospel writers, much less why 5,000 hungry people just happened to be begging the disciples for food even though they all had food in their pockets. It also ignores the fact that there were 5,000 witnesses to that particular miracle – none of whom ever came forward to debunk the claim (despite ample time and opportunity), that one small basket of bread and fish miraculously fed them all.
Clearly, Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce, the film’s screenwriters, believe that not only the disciples but also the authors of the Gospel narratives – and perhaps Jesus, for that matter – were either stupid or deceitful, if not both. Of course, these old-hat accusations have been around for 2,000 years and have yet to be proven – unlike the miracle of the loaves and the fish, which was validated not only by everyone present but also by several church councils, leading to its eventual inclusion in the New Testament canon. Therefore, the film’s theological detour is sheer blasphemy – and this doesn’t count the scene where the boys' father tells them that their mother is not only dead but that no one will ever see her again. During a recent question-and-answer session with Boyle after the press screening, however, the director stated that he believed there was “nothing in this film that would offend Christians.”
Attention all nuns: it’s now acceptable for you to smoke pot in front of schoolchildren. Meanwhile, we’ll all wait with bated breath for the next installment of the Gospel According to Danny Boyle.
Does the film’s message, however compelling, override the fact that it arrogantly sets itself up as an authority over Scripture and slanders those who have long been recognized as models of the Christian faith? With no small amount of hesitation, I would say that it does. As Christians, we are called to be in the world but not of it, and “Millions” provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the faith with unbelieving friends and relatives. Because of its strong biblical message about money and accepting financial responsibility for those in need, it is also a mostly-appropriate family film – on the mandatory condition that parents take the time to not only view the film with their children, but also debunk the lies that it dispenses about the faith.
AUDIENCE: Adults and mature/older children – with parental accompaniment
- Alcohol: Father has wine in one scene and drinks champagne with girlfriend in another scene, on New Year’s Eve; girlfriend later appears drunk; a saint smokes marijuana in front of a child.
- Language: At least two profanities (“for Christ’s sake” and “My God”) and various British obscenities including “bloody,” “bastard” and “piss off.”
- Nudity and Sexuality: Children appear to reveal themselves to other children for money in schoolyard (but nothing visible); television commercial, which repeats itself throughout film, in which young woman wears low-cut Santa Claus outfit and snuggles/kisses an elderly gentleman; boy views Web site with women in bras, then zooms in and talks about her nipple; younger boy asks what it is, to which older boy replies “They’re for feeding babies;” younger brother discovers father and a woman the father has recently met in bed together, late at night (but nothing visible).
- Violence: Young boy shakes the bloody hand of a saint, who also has a large scar on neck and says that he was beheaded; stranger, later revealed to be a thief, appears threatening and speaks to boys; thief lurks around schoolyard and school auditorium during Christmas pageant; child returns to empty home to escape pursuit of a fearsome thief, followed by a scary scene in which he believes stranger is searching for him and hides in attic; thief appears behind boy in store and threatens him.