Slumdog Millionaire and Millions (Notes from the Diary of a Literary Rebel)

My earliest comparison review.  I did a similar comparison review between Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.  Since some of the writing in the original review was not so great, I have done some editing before posting it here.

Feb 6, 2009

Current mood:lazy
With all of the attention that Slumdog Millionaire is getting, I thought it was a good time to discuss a lesser known Danny Boyle movie, 2004’s Millions, particularly because it shares characteristics with Slumdog Millionaire.  Not that they are carbon copies of each other (like the plots of Forrest Gump and The Mysterious Case of Benjamin Button seem to be), but they do share some of the same themes.

Millions deal with two brothers, the younger of whom sees saints and comes across a bag of money one day while talking to a saint near the train tracks.  He feels that the money was given to him by God, and throughout the movie tries to find ways of using it for good.  His brother, who is the only person he tells about the money, prefers to spend it on hi-tech toys and a “security detail” that accompanies him to school.  One boy is materialistic, the other idealistic.  The older brother tries to protect the younger brother from his naivety, such as when the younger brother gives way too much money to a charity at school (raising the suspicions of the principal), and when he tells someone whom he thinks is poor that he can give him lots of money–even though the man may not be looking for lots of money because he is poor.

Slumdog Millionaire also deals with two brothers, though in this case, they grow from childhood to early adulthood during the course of the movie, and the plot includes a love interest.  Again, it’s the younger (and more idealist) brother who needs protecting by the older brother, who saves him from danger when necessary and is practical about making money, but not in ways that the younger brother approves of.  And while there is no bag of money that is found, fame is used in much the same way, with the younger brother going on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire not to win, but to be seen by and reunited with the movie’s love interest.

Two other threads run through each movie: the death of a mother (offscreen in Millions, and more central to the story; onscreen in Slumdog Millionaire) and an ending that will make you cry–for the same reason (though I won’t say whether it’s a happy or a sad reason, or both).  There is more space, however, between the director and his subject in Slumdog Millionaire.  Not that he is detached from that story, but he seems more objective about the lives of the characters involved.  Millions, on the other hand, seems closer Boyle’s heart.  He has mentioned in interviews that he thought about joining the priesthood when younger, so perhaps the younger brother’s infatuation with saints spoke to Boyle more personally than did characters living in a Mumbai slum.  After 28 Days LaterMillions shows the sweeter side of Boyle, which may be why it did not get as much attention as his current film is, with its grittiness mixed with sweetness.  Certainly the grittiness was no surprise, considering that this is the same director who did Trainspotting, but for those surprised by the softer side of the story, and how well Boyle presents it, look no further than Millions.

On a final note, I have not decided which one is the better movie.  The buzz surrounding Slumdog Millionaire would make it seem like the better film, but in some ways, Millions is better.  On the other hand, Slumdog Millionaire‘s ending is better.  I saw each movie within a day of each other, but as I did not do a side-by-side comparison, and great movies become better the more times you watch it, I would recommend seeing both movies and deciding for yourself.  They are both worth the time.

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One thought on “Slumdog Millionaire and Millions (Notes from the Diary of a Literary Rebel)

  1. I have VERY conflicted feelings about Slumdog Millionaire. I absolutely loved it my first time out, but after I read the film’s negative criticism, I gave it a second look and I started to agree with it. Millionaire is a smashing technical achievement, but I do think that it ultimately leaves something to be desired. Its script wilts under close scrutiny, and it has a very low rewatchability.

    I’m pretty sure Millions is Boyle’s best film, or at least it’s the best one I’ve seen by him. A masterwork of children’s films, in my opinion.

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