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So The Box, an extended and re-imagined 22 minute episode of the Twilight Zone. The concept is a cracker but the execution not so clever by now pretentious director Richard Kelly, he of the astoundingly brilliantly Donnie Darko and the appalling Southland Tales. As always he dives off the side of the original idea into a mass of obfuscation and mysticism. He is desperate to write another Donnie Darko and its just not happening, The Box a right old muddle.Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden)are a financially cash strapped professional middle-class American couple, he a young NASA scientist, she a school teacher. At 4:45am on a normal schoolday in suburbia their doorbell rings and an anonymous package left on the step. The parcel is a hollow wooden box with a big red cartoon like plunger button on the top, which they discuss at the breakfast table, obviously some kind of practical joke, 10-year-old son Walter (Sam Oz Stone) dead keen on pressing it, a small complimentary card inside increasing the mystery.A mysterious man (Frank Langella) with a badly disfigured face then visits Norma at 4:45pm with an ultimatum.If she presses the button in the next 24 hours then someone, somewhere, will die and she will receive one million dollars. If she refuses the challenge the box will be taken away and someone else offered the gambit and all this never spoken of again. It's all very strange.After work the Lewis's discuss the moral dilemma and increasingly intrigued and although skeptical and morally torn ? of course ? a million bucks would go a long way to fore filling their dreams, especially for Arthur, who wants to help build a manned space ship mission to Mars. When they make the choice their life begins to unravel as they try to investigate the back story of the mysteries man who delivered the box, who they discover is called Arlington Steward (Frank Longia), who also worked for NASA. Maybe the Lewis's were hand-picked because Arthur works for NASA? And when they begin to track him and his story down it all gets surreal and there appear to be others who have been offered the chance to press the big red button, bleeding from the nose and trance like states their signature signs.As the guy from the Telegraph put it ? ?For those willing to follow Kelly down all the rabbit holes his warped imagination contrives, there are small treasures to be found here and there'. It's certainly a film that wants to be profound but it ends up feeling more like a lesser episode of The X Files, and as we all know, some X-Files episodes were better than others.The main characters, Norma Lewis and Arthur Lewis, are apparently based on director Richard Kelly's parents. His father worked for NASA and co-designed the camera used on the Viking Mars Landers. When you start to write film scripts around your parents then your ego needs to be reigned in. Donnie Darko was such a cool and trippy movie but it does seem that Richard Kelly will always been known as a one hit wonder.It's a fun idea for Sci-Fi but you can see why it only ever was meant to be a 30 minute episode of the Twilight Zone. In reality we would all press the button the moment we got it and if someone did die we would convince ourselves it has nothing to do with us. Therefore this requires your imagination, patience and the stretching of credibility. It really does go off on a tangent once the couple decides what to do with the box and Kelly writes himself into one too many corners, of which are not resolved. In fact by the end of this a very good idea is turned into a jelly of silliness. At times you scratch your head on what the hell is going on whilst other times you simply shake your head, as I did with Southland Tales. It was a relative flop and its $30 million did $32 million back and one suspects Kelly's next film may be his last, if he doesn't go more mainstream. He needs to get at least one genre of film fans back on side. Donnie Darko really was special. Its not say there are not some good bits here on how we are morally conflicted in our every day lives and most of us end up suppressed into conformity in the end but the narrative is all over the place in search of a satisfactory resolution. I think it's about moral selfish choices that will affect the space time continuum but can't be sure. There is stat that say most big lottery winners rarely give much of their fortune to charity and prefer to give it to friends and family, more concerned with not upsetting the people closest to them than save thousands of lives in Africa.There is also a statistic that shows that married lottery winners nearly always split up. Would you buy a ticket knowing that? Money makes us greedy and its only capitalism that frees up from those moral dilemmas and decisions. Now I'm waffling.
'The Box' is an American mystery thriller film released in 2009 and directed by Richard Kelly, director of 2001 movie 'Donnie Darko'. The film is given a guidance rating of a 12 because of some of its violent scenes, and runs for an hour and 55 minutes. The film is rated 5.6 out of 10 on IMDB. I expected this film to be really different and since 'Donnie Darko' is one of my favourite films, I really wanted it to be something as good as that. But because of its sci-fi/fantasy horror/thriller mix and a poor plot to go with it, it may leave you in two minds about it.
A couple receive a box on the doorstep and are told if they push the button they will receive $1 million, but someone that they do not know will die. Is $1 million worth that? The couple need to decide in 24 hours before the box is taken away from them and passed onto to someone else who will then be made this offer. But this will potentially mean that they themselves may be the victim of death by this button if the next person decided to push it!
The beginning: The first few scenes of the film are very interesting and within a few minutes the box is introduced. It is an exciting concept to begin with and it is going to have the viewer engrossed into what this box is capable of doing, if anything - whether is it real, what's REALLY going to happen when the button is pushed? It's easy for the viewer to think that the characters think nothing will happen, but it's a movie of course so you wait patiently for them to push to the button. Basically, the idea behind this box is that if the button in this wooden box is pushed, it will bring that $1 million but they are aware and have been informed that this in turn will lead to the death of someone else that they don't know. It seems the main point is that they don't know the person who will consequently die, so will that hold them back for the sake of doing the 'right' thing? Either way, they need to decide fast because if the owner does not push the button, the box will be taken from them the following day and will be given to someone else, who in turn could potentially receive $1 million instead. So when an old smartly dressed man appears at their door upon receiving the box on their doorstep, he explains all of this, the box's purpose and meaning - his face is half deformed, you instantly realise that this film wants to really take mystery to a new level. But at this early stage it was difficult to take any of it seriously, as much as the tone of the film within these first few scenes is nothing but serious, we feel really aware that it is beginning to sound like a very unrealistic concept. The story is very nicely built up initially but once the beginning few scenes lead us into the main bulk, we kind of get what it is all about and there is not a great much more suspense - but it is something we'd want to continue with to see how it all works out (or not) in the end.
Characters: The characters in the film play a simple part in building us up into their reactions to all of strange situations that they get are put through. It is definitely is interesting to see what they would do or how they would react to these particular situations and why they would choose to do what they do. But overall the role that these actors have to play was dreary and even though we might like the story, we can not form much of a connection with the characters and this was the first thing I noticed during the first few scenes of the film - it was disappointing. The dialogue was pretty bad and the interaction between any of the characters was slow and depressing. The characters in the film consist of Norma Lewis played by Cameron Diaz who is happens to be a teacher and one morning she picks up the box from their home doorstep. It seems she is the main decision-maker on whether to push the button or not. She is the wife of Arthur Lewis played by James Marsden and NASA employee. They also have a son. They are pretty broke, so it is interesting to see which direction they would go and why they chose that route. The man who arrives at their door who is the keeper of the box is played by Frank Langella, but there is not much we learn about him either apart from the basics, like how his face got deformed which we learn later on and his own opinion on this whole pushing the button thing, which is supposed to have added another dimension to the story. The characters just seem to be there to fill out the plot but there was nothing that stood out or was memorable about them overall.
The story/idea: I really enjoying watching most kinds of films, and even if I don't particularly like a film, I tend to find something else that like about it such as the acting or the visual effects or maybe the story idea. But since there was not much I was crazy about in this one, I had to find out what this film was based on and what that original idea was really all about. 'Button Button' is what 'The Box' has been based on, and after reading about the short story, I decided that it may have been something which worked so well as a short story of the 1970's on television, but not so well as a feature length film - something that goes on for too long which should really be half the size is going to suffer. And so the characters in a short story are not necessarily meant to have strong personalities as those from a film where the characters and acting is one of the most important aspects of presentings the entire story! At the end of the day, this film was made out of one simple idea about pushing a button and its consequences - 'The Box' clearly gives us that, but when it runs dry we a driven into a repeat of movie 'Donnie Darko' where things don't always make sense (Donnie Darko pulls this of well), but 'The Box' might have lost its way by trying to be too wacky for its own good.
Theme: There are so many topics and themes brought up into the plotline, and the entire film is really all about presenting these in and trying to make it a thought-provoking, intense experience for the viewer and hopefully getting the viewer involved into the case of what exactly would THEY do if they were faced with a scenario like this one. Well, first of all, we wouldn't be, and secondly, it was not captivating enough to have us engrossed into scenes as much as it might have liked. I never felt more disconnected, and this just increased and intensified from the middle of the film to the very last scene. But anyhow, it was nice that thematically the story tries to strongly touch on lots of interesting issues that you wouldn't have expected before you began watching - like the issues of human nature and instinctual choices and choices/thoughts of men versus women, money and guilt, selfishness and selflessness, love and loss, reality versus supernaturalism with the idea of time travelling - the time travelling idea that was already used in 'Donnie Darko'.
The ending: The film ends the way we would have expected in some ways and in other ways I can tell that they are going for a clever kind of meaning to the consequences of this box, so at least it does round up the story quite nicely. But there was nothing spectacular about the conclusion which would have been brilliant here and definitely nothing is shocking - no twists and turns to make it even more exciting as it leads us out toward the end of the film. I couldn't help feeling it was really unconvincing and I found it really hard to believe even though it is a sci-fi fantasy, you are still expected to be convinced by what you are seeing, at least to some extent. And without giving away too much, I felt that the film seems to have ended up representing the idea of death as something so silly and straightforward that you can just give and take it so easily - really I would think there is more to the effect of life and death to people than just that. We see the couple make a few decisions about life and death as a result of the button, but really before people decide on those kinds of things, there are going to be deeper emotional concerns that people are going to naturally be tied down to as well - like the direct impact on other people. So, as much as the end of the film was maybe a show of selflessness, I thought it was actually showing a certain sex, like the woman, as actually being weak throughout the film.
This film is more interesting when you haven't seen it than it is after you have seen it. Not knowing what this film really was about was far more appealing, than what we get on the whole. It feels very slow moving and because this film has been made from a short story with a simple concept, you can see that the content is lacking a little, which was bound to happen. Another thing is this film is set in the 1970's, all the scenes, costume, make-up, and anything else visually looks of that era but it makes the film feel really dated. Bringing it into the modern day rather than sticking to a past era would have been more relevant as that way the sci-fi fantasy element of it could have felt a lot more impressive. Either way, watch if this is your kind of thing, but don't expect any revelations like what 'Donnie Darko' gave us.
About the film
The Box is a psychological thriller film which was released in 2009. The film was based on the 1970 short story "Button, Button" by Richard Matheson. The Box is rated 12A due to thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images and the film has a run time of 115 minutes.
In a suburban town, Norma and Arthur Lewis live with their son Walter. One day, they receive a plain wooden box without any idea who it came from. Later, a stranger arrives and explains that if they choose to press the button inside the box, they will receive the massive sum of $1 million. However, should they press the button then someone, somewhere will die but this won't be anyone that they know. The couple only have 24 hours to decide which opens up a whole range of moral dilemmas which question the true nature of their humanity.
Cameron Diaz as Norma Lewis
James Marsden as Arthur Lewis
Frank Langella as Arlington Steward
Gillian Jacobs as Dana/Sarah Matthews
Deborah Rush as Clymene Steward
Sam Oz Stone as Walter Lewis
Ryan Woodle as Jeffrey Carnes
James Rebhorn as Norm Cahill
Holmes Osborne as Dick Burns
Celia Weston as Lana Burns
Andrew Levitas as black ops Carson
John Magaro as Charles
What I thought
Being a big fan of Cameron Diaz, The Box has been on my wish list for quite some time. I didn't really know much about the film but it looked different and quite exciting so it caught my interest.
When I began watching The Box, everything made sense. Norma and Lewis are a struggling couple who, after a couple of bad situations, are a bit strapped for cash. When the strange box appears at their home I could understand the confusion and worry about whether or not they should press the button inside. At this point, I couldn't understand what would possibly happen if they did decide to push the button and someone would quite randomly die. The plot was pretty simple up to this point and quite easy to follow as everything surrounded the decision about the button. However, after only about 40 minutes or so, I had completely lost track of what was going on in this film.
Cameron Diaz is one of my favourite actresses but here, she fell a little flat for me. While her emotions concerning pressing the button came across as real and convincing, the plot let her down immensely. After things in the film started to get slightly strange, the things that I liked about her character, Norma, just disappeared. To begin with, she was a worried and concerned character who obviously was torn about what she was doing. However, later in the film these things slowly disappeared and I just ended up not caring about what happened to her in the end.
James Marsden is a slightly different story. Arthur is a struggling family man who wants to do better by his wife and son but also do better for himself. I loved how driven he was and he definitely showed a lot more emotion than Diaz as Norma. Marsden's emotional portrayal of Arthur continues throughout the film and I could really feel exactly what he was feeling. The harsh repercussions of certain actions take a massive toll on Arthur and this was so clear to see from Marsden's performance. I really hate to say that he was better than Diaz but he was, by far.
I wish I had known that this was taken from a short story that was used for an episode of The Twilight Zone before watching as I think things would have made a lot more sense. Now, knowing these things, I can understand why particular things happened in the film. I think the back of the DVD and the synopsis are quite misleading when it comes to what this film is actually about. Yes, it is a psychological thriller but there is also so much more to it than that. Also, this is a film that you really have to pay attention to otherwise you will quickly lose track of the plot and be as confused as I was.
While this is a good film, it wasn't what I was expecting and it is really confusing to watch.
RELEASED: 2009, Cert.12
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 115 mins
DIRECTOR/SCREENPLAY/PRODUCER: Richard Kelly
MUSIC: Win Butler, Regine Chassagne & Owen Pallett
James Marsden as Arthur Lewis
Cameron Diaz as Norma Lewis
Sam Oz Stone as Walter Lewis
Frank Langella as Arlington Steward
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on Richard Matheson's story called Button Button, The Box begins with teacher Norma Lewis losing her job, which worries her as to how the family will cope financially.
Very early one morning whilst Norma, her husband Arthur and son Walter are still in bed, there is a ring on their doorbell. By the time Norma gets to the door the caller has vanished, but she notices a square package wrapped in brown paper has been left on the doorstep, and takes it inside. Norma and Arthur decide to open the package, to find it contains a strange wooden box with a globe-shaped piece of glass adorning the top. They both wonder what it could be, when Arthur discovers a handwritten note inside the packaging he is about to discard. The note advises that if they press the glass dome on top of the box, they will be in receipt of $1m, but that one person somewhere in the world will die as a result. This promise is confirmed by a strange man (Arlington Steward) who visits the house later in the day, claiming to have been the person who delivered the package.
When Arthur returns home from work, he and Norma discuss what they are going to do about the box. Arthur is rather sceptical regarding both the $1m and the warning that someone will die if they do press the button, but at the same time both are tempted by such an amount of money and grapple with their consciences as to whether they should cause the death of another simply to gain a huge financial reward.
The need for the money gets the better of Norma, so she pushes the button, and on the following day, the strange Arlington Steward pays another visit, handing over the $1m packed into a briefcase, yet asserting that someone definitely will die as a consequence of Norma's choice.
It seems a very easy, even if immoral way to earn $1m, but before long, it becomes apparent that things don't end there as strings are attached, and the fact that Arlington Steward has a badly disfigured face, is relevant to the storyline.
The Box is a strange sort of film which comes across to me as a genre mish-mash of horror, thriller, fantasy and drama, laced with a definite edge of sci-fi.
The beginning is very good, setting the scene well in the way that it gets the juices of suspense flowing rather nicely, but from the point where Norma takes the plunge and pushes the button, it all starts to get a bit confusing, and it is a confusion which mounts as the film progresses.
The acting is fairly good from all concerned, especially the main characters, although not what I'd personally deem as particularly outstanding. The music is a little too dramatic and up-front for my tastes in films, and is typical of a drama/fantasy of this nature.
I'm not quite sure what kept me watching The Box through until the end, as I honestly hadn't got a clue what it was all about once the button had been pressed, but something urged me to stick with it, despite the confusion levels accelerating throughout. It could be that I was possibly waiting for a finger of clarity to extend from the heavens and plant a golden light of understanding inside of my brain, but it simply didn't happen. Also, again despite being completely out of the picture as to what on earth was supposed to be going on, I did find the film moved at a healthy pace and I think I was particularly drawn to the idea of people being tempted into a situations whereby they are forced to make impossible choices.
Some of the camera angles were very good, and if The Box had been simply a horror film without the sci-fi/fantasy elements, it could have come across as pretty chilling.
I can't say that I found the film particularly scary or creepy, but the issue of people being forced to make impossible choices did make me feel a bit uncomfortable as I could imagine myself in the same situation where I simply wouldn't be able to cooperate....such lack of cooperation from me would have led to disastrous consequences.
The ending of the film is two-fold, one part of which I understood perfectly, but the other part left me completely baffled as to how what happened could have arisen and why. The baffling part contained some pretty stunning special effects though.
I did lose the plot altogether after about the first 40 or so minutes of the film, so can't really push The Box anywhere near my all-time favourites list, simply because despite the good acting, good special effects and it otherwise being a well put together movie, it just didn't hit my spot or interest me enough to make me earmark it for a second viewing.
I will stick my neck out here as a confirmed loather of remakes, and say that I do feel The Box could perhaps benefit from a makeover, but any director taking on this task I feel would have to present it in such a way that the storyline is much clearer than how it presently stands.
In summary, I'm really in two minds as to whether to recommend The Box or not, because some parts of it are not brilliant, but really good...yet huge swathes of it just left me with a massive question mark hovering over my head. I would imagine this film could perhaps appeal to fans of the type of sci-fi material which is earthbound and doesn't wander into the realms of extra-terrestrials, but when all's said and done and as a whole, it simply didn't hit my spot.
At the time of writing, The Box can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.26 to £16.44
Used: from 90p to £9.50
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
- Story -
The Lewises' are a young couple with a son who are struggling to make ends meet - Arthur works for Nasa and Norma works as a teacher and suffers from a disfigured foot. One day, a small wooden box is left in an unmarked box on their doorstep. Once opened, bad things start to happen and a disturbing man with a disfigured face appears at the door while Arthur is out and explains to Norma that he left the wooden box for her and opens it, explaining that she now has two options - press the button thats contained in the box, which, he claims, will lead to someone in the world dying - if she does he'll come back and hand her a case filled with $1 million, or, alternatively, don't press the button and hand the box back to him after 24 hours, in which case she'll be given $100 anyway. She can't tell the police but she can talk to her husband about it. Given things have become so dire for the family financially, they have to take this strange offer seriously but what will the consequences be if they do press the button? and what if their consciences get the better of them and they try to contact the authorities about this peculiar, disfigured man? is it really possible that by pressing some seemingly harmless little button in a small wooden box, someone would die? you'll have to watch the movie to find out.
- Thoughts/Opinions -
This is quite an intriguing movie, which has a real 'b movie' feel to it, certainly as far as the story is concerned, in my opinion. You can tell that its set in the 1970s given the cheap and gaudy wallpaper in the Lewis' home (sorry, I just couldn't NOT mention that - its somewhat horrifying enough in itself) which I felt added to the quirkiness of it. This is a mystery thriller and not really a horror movie, so yup in my humble opinion this is another movie which has been wrongly classified by sites such as Ciao and others - to me this has much more of a creepy, unsettling mystery feel to it than being an all out visual based horror movie.
Having said that, I wouldn't recommend this movie to people with a particularly nervous disposition - I found the story really quite unsettling in a way, despite the fact that it is obviously very far fetched - the way that its made is I suppose quite good, in that you do, somewhat begrudgingly at first, go along with it. Its quite a slow burner as well, in that, of course, you share the questions and concerns of Norma, wondering who the mysterious man who seemed to have lost half of his face really was and whether there can be any shred of truth in the claim that by pressing the seemingly harmless button, it would lead to somebodies death. Given the story, this is definitely not one for sceptics, as you very much have to allow yourself to go along with the story and as the movie continues, as we get some clues as to what its all about, it really does become more and more, shall I say, out of the ordinary, to the extent that some people would likely laugh at it and the word tosh might even come to mind!.
Due to that, I would point out that this is, to me, quite a sci-fi centered/based movie, given what we learn and what happens storywise in the movie, it does become very much science fiction based, so if you don't have any interest or even laugh at sci-fi based movies then I would recommend that you stay clear of this movie. Does this mean that ultimately the movie is some cheap b movie sci-fi nonsense that should be avoided at all costs? well I think it would be unfair to say that overall, I'll admit that even though the story wasn't what I expected, it certainly wasn't a casualty of the usual 'very slight twist on a very tired old formula' faux pas, at least as far as I was concerned, though there may well be a number of similar 'b movie' type films, to me, this was a story that I'd never seen and so I found it rather gripping and intriguing to watch the story unravel and find out what it was all about. Basically things take a turn for the more bizarre and as the movie continues, or as the story unravels I think is a more accurate term, things become more complicated and I found I struggled a bit to keep up with what was happening and what the ultimate big picture was - this is a movie that requires you to concentrate quite well and in a sense your playing an amateur detective/sleuth, trying to piece everything together.
I can honestly say that I found by roughly about three quarters of the way into the movie, as the storyline pace heightened and we realised what was going on and what was at stake, I became quite engrossed in it and was just about, as the catch phrase goes 'on the edge of my seat' (or, more truthfully, my bed lol) watching, waiting to find out what would happen to the Lewis' poor son and which option Norma and Arthur would choose (yes the movie pretty much ends with another choice of two, this time much bleaker, options).
This movie is quite bleak, pretty dark and depressing and its one that could well particularly strike a chord with mothers, who may find the story quite unsettling, upsetting even if your of a paranoid/sensitive disposition. The only really scary aspects of it are in the concepts behind the movie, not what you seen on screen as such, its more of a talking piece I suppose.
Ultimately I was rather disappointed with the way that the movie wrapped up - I was left with more questions than answers and I'd found trying to follow the story up to the end was quite hard going at points, the concepts it involves are quite complicated, so its not easy - so I was a bit let down by the way it ended - however, I wouldn't say that I felt entirely cheated of the time I'd spent watching it either, I think its really a case of it being a slightly different to the bog standard mystery movie and for that, its ok.
- Would I Recommend It? -
I can't say that I didn't enjoy the movie in terms of it certainly being something different, to me anyway, though I can't deny that it isn't perfect either. This is a movie that you'll probably either find somewhat fascinating and that will pass the time and intrigue you or it'll be one that, about half way into it, you'll shake your head at and think what a load of old tosh to be quite frank. The ending was a bit of a disappointment - although I can't help but wonder if I'd managed to concentrate a bit more, maybe the answers to the questions I was left with after it had ended, had been there - I'm not entirely sure. Its certainly a movie thats rather engrossing, I found it quite intriguing although equally far fetched once things became a bit clearer in terms of what was going on. Ok so would I recommend it? well, this would depend on what interests you of course - if you like quirky movies and you like, or don't mind, sci-fi based movies then yes, I'd very much recommend this - if, however, you don't, then obviously stay clear of this.
I thought that the main performances given in this movie were quite good, although the movie has a b movie type feel to it, I wouldn't say that it doesn't have any appeal, its just, not quite what you might expect it to be, put it that way - cryptic I know, i'm not quite sure what else I can say, to be honest. I wouldn't recommend much be spent on this movie, unless your a die hard Cameron Diaz fan who doesn't have this movie in your collection in which case you'll likely want to add it, its not a title I'd really heard much about so people might not be aware of it but otherwise, I reckon its something thats worth a rent or catching on TV if you'd like to see something a little different but otherwise its not really worth going out of your way to see.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found it useful and thanks for any and all rates and comments, I appreciate them all. This review was originally posted on Ciao UK.
The Box - FILM ONLY REVIEW
Running time: 110 minutes
Certificate: 12A (UK) / PG13 (USA)
The problem with having your debut movie become a cult favourite is that you are setting yourself up for a fall with your subsequent releases. Writer-director Richard Kelly is a perfect example of this: "Donnie Darko" good, "Southland Tales" bad, and "The Box"...well, also fairly bad. You might argue that the Donnie Darko link might have lead viewers to expect more from The Box than it was ever really capable of delivering, but I only found out that Kelly was involved as the end credits mercifully rolled, so I had no expectations greater than the thought it might be a mildly entertaining 1 hour 50 minutes. And I still found it to be pretty bad.
The Box is based on the 1970 short story "Button, Button" by the science fiction writer Richard Matheson, which was later made into a 30-minute episode of The Twilight Zone. By taking this idea and expanding it onto a feature length film, Kelly has produced a case-study of why short stories are different form novels. The basic idea is an intriguing one. Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz) and husband Arthur (James Marsden) are woken early one morning by a stranger (Frank Langella) delivering a package. The package contains a box with a large red button in it, which the stranger explains comes with an offer - they will have the box for 24 hours, and if either one of them chooses to push the button in it during that time, he will give them one million dollars in cash. For a family with a young child "living paycheque to paycheque" this offer seems irresistible, but it naturally comes with a catch: pressing the button will cause someone, somewhere (who they don't know) to die. If they call the police or involve anyone else in the decision, the deal is off.
Decision, decisions. What are the Lewis family going to do? The box is empty, so how will the stranger know if they push the button or not - and how could it possibly kill someone if they do? What harm could it do to humour this rich madman and take his money? But what sort of weird Faustian pact could they be making if they do? What are they prepared to live with to give their family the financial security that would allow them to continue their lifestyle without worrying about the next bill that arrives?
At this point the intrigue ends for me and I can see how a short story or half-hour episode could quickly bring this idea to a satisfying ending. However, the makers of The Box have now set themselves up with another 90 minutes to fill, so the film has to turn from an interesting moral dilemma, so beautiful in its simplicity, into a quasi-thriller in which the identity of the stranger and the reasons behind his offer have to be teased out while weird things continue to happen around Norma and Arthur. The story at this point reminds me very much of episodes of the X Files when it reached its frustratingly complex phase: mysterious and nonsensical plot leaps, supernatural nosebleeds, talk of government conspiracy, creepiness, and paranoia shovelled in like it's going out of fashion. The story ends up too big, too confused, too long, too slowly paced and utterly tiresome long before it reaches its welcome - and rather predictable - conclusion.
There were a couple of small points that redeem The Box somewhat. I liked Marsden in his role; he looked convincing and confidant throughout, and worked well with the often ropey dialogue he was given. The same cannot be said for his co-star, however. I suspect Diaz realised too late that she had signed herself up for a ludicrous film and as a consequence could not see the point of putting any effort into her part. Her character - not exactly exciting or rounded to begin with - seems unnatural in this setting, and her attempt at an intermittent Southern accent sounds embarrassingly fake. She was as clearly miscast in this role as Marsden worked well in his. There was another positive in the way the period setting was lovingly created with its garish colours, lurid wallpaper and flamboyant cars; this was as clearly a film set in the seventies as Donnie Darko was set in the eighties.
From the evidence of The Box, it looks like Kelly is dangerously close to getting a bad dose of the M Night Shyamalans, with his love for turning interesting ideas into overly long and overly freaky codswallop. If it is mysterious men with boxes offering money that you want, I think you would be better off watching Deal or No Deal - or better yet watching the original Twilight Zone episode.
I was tempted by this film because it seemed to fall into the thriller genre, but I must admit that the setting on 1970s America was a little off-putting at first. Could it really pull it off? Could it be chilling, relevant and believable? Actually, the concept was interesting and the cast was strong enough to make The Box work.
We're introduced initially to Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz), her husband Arthur (James Marsden) and their child in tow in a suburban town of 1970s America. Things are ticking along as normal until a strange wooden box is delivered to their house. It looks simple enough, a little gift perhaps. The truth of the box is unveiled upon Arlington Steward's arrival (played by Frank Langella).
There's a button on the box, which, according to Arlington, is when the magic happens. By pressing it, the owner of the box will receive $1 million. Nothing is that straightforward, however, for this 'gift' comes with a deadly consequence: pressing the button will cause someone else, anyone somewhere in the world, to die.
That's quite a lot to take in so you can't blame the couple for deliberating. It's actually Norma who is initially told, and we see her debate the morality of the concept alone before telling her husband. He sees Arlington for himself and comes to understand the implications of this simple box on the kitchen table before them.
Of course, we could be caught in this catch-22 situation forever, however the couple have only 24 hours to decide. So, what is it to be? They're on modest incomes and need the money. They're only human. But to know what their financial gain would cause a human loss is weighing heavily on their minds.
As the film continues, we see the processes they go through in deciding what to do. How is it even possible? Is there something attached to the box? Some futuristic detonator? A sensor? Or is it all a hoax? Seeing the issues, questions and tensions arise make this a premise to reflect on and I found myself wondering what I would do in their situation.
It's a throw back in time to retro deco and clothing and this set the film apart from other contemporary films within the thriller genre. There's not much in the way of action because this is more psychological, so it's quite an understated film. I don't think it would have been watchable or credible if it wasn't for both the actors involved and the films direction by Donnie Darko's Richard Kelly.
Diaz wouldn't necessarily have been my choice for this role but she, together with Marsden, act out their roles as the suburban couple well. Langella adds an air of mystery and sinister undertones as the bearer of the box and this made the premise appear more believable and thus more watchable.
What I wasn't so keen on, however, was the somewhat dubious ending, which I felt let the film down. I suppose this couldn't really be changed greatly as The Box was actually an adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1970 story 'Button, Button'.
Overall, it's a film that is quite quiet and understated, yet evokes and provokes responses. It offered something a little different from the norm and the premise made it a film worth watching, if only out of curiosity. Afterall, who could ignore a mysteriously simple box and button and resist it's $1 million temptation..?
2009/2010 (DVD), RRP £17.99 but selling on Amazon for £4.99
Rated Certificate 12, 112 minutes
I have to say what an odd film. I'm still not really sure if I liked it or not. The film was very slow but I couldn't help being intrigued by it all.
The film is set in the 70's, about a couple who receive a box on their door step in the early hours of the morning. There is a note with the box to say someone will visit them later that day. The visitor arrives and tells them if they press the button (which is in the box) they will receive $1 million but some one, somewhere in the world, who they don't know, will die. They have 24 hours to decide.
I would have to say the film is more like a psychological thriller than a horror and I usually enjoy psychological thrillers but this one was hard work. It was really hard to get into the film and I don't think I did. There are a couple of parts in the film that made me jump but that was about it. Didn't really manage to get into the characters either. They were believable and the acting wasn't bad but it was just lacking something.
I would say it is worth a watch but maybe don't go out any buy it, rent it first to see what you think.
The Box is a rather confusing and slow moving supernatural thriller about a 1970s couple who are offered an amazing opportunity: the chance to win $1 million. All they have to do is push the button on a box that is delivered to their house. However, if they push the button, then someone, somewhere will die. What would you do?
What starts out as quite an entertaining and interesting concept soon develops into something altogether confusing, and while most of the questions, including the main one about the reason for the box conundrum, get answered, there was still an element of confusion as the credits rolled.
The film tries to explore the selfish nature we sometimes have as human beings, and looks at what we're like as a society. The 1970s is well recreated, with clothes, hair, cars and the like all giving off the right visual vibe, while a pretty good soundtrack gives us the audio 70s feel. Putting something like a psychological study into a 1970s setting gives it an almost Twilight Zone feel at times, with certain elements quite edge of the seat, and others that you just have to accept as weird.
The acting is decent enough. James Marsden and Cameron Diaz are okay as the couple faced with the decision, while Frank Langella is the stranger who delivers the message and explains about the box. Deformed with a sunken cheek, Langella manages to steal the show with his rather emotionless performance. The voice he employs for his assumed governmental role is haunting and daunting, and the happy couple suitably act their way through the scene that are affected by him.
Aside from these three, there are no real stand out performances, with them being focused upon throughout the film more than anyone else. As things start to unravel, you do have certain realisation that makes you appreciate clever plot writing and script development, but it dragged too much in places to capitalise on this potential. I couldn't help feeling this was such a huge potential for a massive film, and I feel they have missed out. Richard Kelly's direction lends itself more to poignancy and vivid visuals than a mind twisting thriller that this needs to be. I found this had the right idea, but failed really to connect in the way it needed to. The panic and tension seemed forced, even when the acting was good, and the plot was preposterous enough that guesswork didn't have any effect on trying to work out what was going on. This then lessened the appeal, as many elements merely passed me by as unimportant.
These unimportant occurences in the film didn't go by just by chance. I really tried to see the relevance, but ultimately it was all rather secretively filmed, resulting in quite an anticlimactic end. By the time we found out what was going on, my interest had waned, and what could have been a rather powerful revelation, resulted in being just another twist in just another film, without much to write home about.
The Box is something that's worth having on if it's just on in the background, but then again, it's the sort of film that you need to watch as opposed to just glance at. There is a lot going on if you want to follow it, but ultimately, watching it from start to finish resulted in me looking at the time quite a bit, and by the time the credits rolled, I was completely nonplussed, and almost felt like I had wasted my time. There are impressive moments, and it passes the time, but there are too many attempts to force a plot, and not enough clever tweaking to develop interest all the way through. Not recommended, I'm afraid.
I am a fan of Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, so it was natural for me to want to see this movie. I am also a fan of the odd thriller and being a total scaredy-cat I wont watch a thriller that is a 15 or over!
The Box is set in the 1970s around a surburban couple and their child. A mysterious man presents a box to them and offers them a key to open the glass casing and push the button inside. He says that if they push the button they will receive a suitcase full of $100 notes adding up to one million dollars. The catch is that someone who they do not know will die. Push the button or not push the button - the choice is theirs.
The movie starts out slow, giving us time to enjoy the quirky 1970s fashion and music. We learn that despite Arthur (James Marsden) working for NASA and Norma (Cameron Diaz) a teacher in a private school; they are stuggling for money. (Bye bye realism) Arthur loses prospects of a promotion and Norma is told that their "teacher discount" at the school no longer applies and their son would not be able to continue attending at the current rate. So 1 million dollars would come in handy right about now...Norma is tempted and Arthur is sceptical that the box would really kill someone...
I don't want to give anything away. The story builds in suspense and excitement. There is so much potential with this movie - my authoric mind has already re-written the whole latter half of the movie into some large government conspiracy whereby they are forced to push the button else they have to fight for their lives and find every aspect of their situation manipulated by this sick-company which desires to prove to the world that no one would choose to save a life and walk away from 1 million dollars.
I must say I lost the plot in this movie. In fact, I'm pretty sure Richard Kelly (Director) lost the plot too. Suddenly we are thrown into a mix of the bizarre and unbelievable...Sci Fi, Religion, Scientology....a bit of the Matrix....it's all sort of thrown together to make this inconceivable conclusion to the story.
Absolute waste of 2 hours and the only regret I have is knowing I will never get those 2 hours back.
The most disappointing factor of this film is that it had the potential to be a very good thriller!
Upon hearing about the concept of this film, I was immediately intrigued and followed it up till its release. Unfortunately I did not manage to see the film at the cinema but got it on DVD and finally watched it!
~~~DVD BOX COVER DESIGN~~~
The design of the DVD is really nothing special and features Cameron Diaz in the centre, whilst Frank Lagella and James Marsden are in the shade to her left and right. It is quite a dark cover but does come across as intriguing, and I like how the actual DVD box is in red plastic! Overall a simple yet effective cover!
~~~THOUGHTS ON PLOT~~~
I can't give away too much of the plot due to the nature of the film, but basically, Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz) receives a mysterious box and a proposal. If she presses the button, someone she does not know will die, but she will get $1 million. The film follows her drastic decisions and the consequences her family must face in a confusing ride with extreme results.
I have read some reviews before seeing this and yes, from what I got, many people do not understand the film and was confused. Having seen it, I can honestly agree with the level of confusion this film gives out. However, it is this same confusion that makes this film superb.
Firstly, the simple idea of a box, a difficult decision and extreme consequences is enough to drive this thriller. What Richard Kelly adds to such simple formula is a complexity also found in his first "hit", Donnie Darko. The themes that are subtly placed in the film include religion (idea of Adam and Eve, Sin, afterlife), Sci-Fi (Altruism, Aliens) and Philosophy (fate, freewill); plus many other additional points of interest. There is great debate as to what this film really wants to bring out, and the negative reviews seem to be that there is no conclusion to any of the questions.
However, I think that is the whole point of the film. Quote: "Your home is a box. Your car is a box on wheels. You drive to work in it. You drive home in it. You sit in your home, staring into a box. It erodes your soul, while the box that is your body inevitably withers... then dies. Where upon it is placed in the ultimate box, to slowly decompose." The idea that we no longer think for ourselves and just get fed information is key. Why do we need a conclusive end when we can use our own interpretation to take what we want from the movie?
Overall, the film provided enough intrigue to last, although it was rather slow to start. I liked the simplicity of the beginning and the couple's struggle to press the button or not. The complexity immediately builds into something that the average person cannot comprehend. Personally, I think the vagueness is deliberate, and definitely adds to the film, although many will not like it as it is. Another thing is the ending. Many have criticised the final decision the couple makes as illogical and stupid. What would happen if they chose the other option? A question arises. Could they have made the choice? Was it fate?
Anyhow, the film was much better than Donnie Darko in my opinion and is worth another watch just to pick out all the hidden themes and make it what I think it is... although if you're really stuck, there are several online forums that talk about the meaning of the film which may help guide you to your own conclusion.
Cameron Diaz- Norma Lewis
Frank Lagella- Arlington Steward
James Marsden- Arthur Lewis
Cameron Diaz was unfortunately miscast in this movie as Norma Lewis. She just isn't one for serious roles. Her accent was inconsistent and very forced which at times annoyed, but overall, acceptable given the circumstances.
James Marsden wasn't really given a big role and he didn't really have scenes where he shone. His emotional extremity was only shown at the end, by which it was perhaps too late.
Frank Lagella was sublime in playing the freaky Arlington Steward. His aura, tone of voice and stance was everything the role could be and he was definitely the one to watch in this movie. Despite his scariness, you wanted to see more of him.
There are a range of extra features on this DVD:
-The Box: Grounded in Reality
-Matheson: In his own words
-Music Video Prequels
The special effects was short, but really interesting. The Box: Grounded in Reality is also quite interesting as the director talks about his real life influences found in the film... The music video prequels were boring though!
The DVD can be purchased for £5 and under on most online retailers, such as Amazon.
Confusing yet thrilling, The Box explodes of excitement and psychological tension whilst urging thought and intrigue. Despite the slow start, the film is quick to pick up pace and develop into a complex, non-linear storyline that leaves an ending open to interpretation.
For those of you who liked Donnie Darko, this is one for you, with even more mysterious themes and interpretive conclusions, although this film is definitely not for everyone...
Be warned. Anyone who watches this is bound to be confused. Watch at your own risk!
Brace yourselves: this film is mental. It's hectic, mind-blowingly confusing and to top it off, impressively fast-paced, and absolutely nothing can prepare you for what's coming. A two-minute trailer cannot do justice to just what this film has in store for you. And this is to be expected of course, from the director of the cult classic "Donnie Darko." With "The Box," Richard Kelly combines an array of ideas that normally would not work together and decides to shoot a full-length film with it. So again, brace yourselves: you're about to enter a wildly imaginative two-hour world that's filled with space expeditions, Mars, government conspiracy involving the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Security Agency (NSA), severed toes, floating water, people with nose bleeds, debate about free will, greed, desperation, murders, possible alien invasion and murders. Think of this as an entire season of "The X-Files" squeezed into the two-hour timeframe. Preposterous, puzzling but ultimately shockingly gripping.
The film takes us back to 1976, where a seemingly nice and honest married couple are quite suddenly facing financial difficulties. Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz) is a school teacher, and Arthur (James Marsden) is a NASA employee who was denied a trip to Mars due to the fact that he didn't pass the psychological test required for the mission. One day however, they awake to find a mysterious package delivered at their door. Inside is a locked wooden box with a red button with a separate note that reads: "Mr. Steward will call upon you at 5.00pm." And he does. Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) shows up right on time, with his deformed face, and explains his offer. Press the button, and the couple will receive a payment of one million dollars in cash. Too good to be true right? Well, there's a catch. Pressing the button will also cause the death of a complete stranger. So the real question is this: are you willing to be responsible for the death of someone you don't know for the sake of a seven-figure reward? The Lewis family is short on cash however, so acting with her impulse, Norma presses the button. Steward's promise is kept, but other consequences soon follow to put the family in jeopardy.
Are they bad people? Not necessarily, and we are never led to believe otherwise. They have a son to support after all, and let's be honest, who on earth wouldn't have pressed the button eventually? They are normal people who have succumbed to the temptation that involved an easy way to earn a lot of money. (One million dollars in 1976 is the equivalent of approximately 3.7 million) Diaz and Marsden are great at portraying the decent but struggling couple. They try to mask their worries behind the closed door of their finely decorated 70s suburban house, but there are always permanent hints of everlasting anxiety that show on the actors' faces. Diaz continues to solidify her status as a serious actress capable of taking on more dramatic roles - she gives one of her warmest, most engaging performances ever, an impressive streak carrying on from yet another one of her marvelous achievements in "My Sister's Keeper." She's no longer the ditzy blonde that everyone found adorable. And that transition never looks awkward on her, which will hopefully encourage the film industry to give her more complex, showy roles for which she can receive the recognition she thoroughly deserves. Marsden is also excellent as her on-screen husband and the two of them have the genuine spark that makes us care.
Events that follow the pressing of the button are chaotic, bold, inventive and baffling. There can be no spoilers in this review since it would be impossible to put down in words what happens. Kelly seems to enjoy complicating every single event in the film, turning a plot device connecting "a" to "b" into a horrendously mind-boggling, yet oddly fascinating journey that goes all the way to "z" before coming back to "b." He chooses to explain certain aspects of the film and as for others that are left unexplained, the audience is supposed to open a massive discussion to argue over the various characters' motives and choices. Is this a sign of laziness or intelligence? I'd like to give Kelly the benefit of the doubt, because throughout the mess he's created for us to solve, he does show off his flourish that makes this unique. The incredibly detailed 70s atmosphere is undeniably depressing and sinister, and it was his wise decision to set the film in this era. He also gets extra points for conveying horror so well. With no jump scares, he goes back to using methods that made us all squirm at "The Exorcist" and hide behind our hands in "The Shining." Using the less-is-more approach, Kelly is often able to capture something truly spooky and he doesn't even have to rely on suddenly loud music for that.
Ultimately it boils down to how much thinking you are willing to do. Because once you get into this nightmare you really have to work your brain. There is no right or wrong answer and whatever you feel is right probably is. What some people may call imaginative, bold and original others might see this as being pretentious, overcomplicated and downright unnecessary. It split the critics into two and no doubt it will do the same for normal audience members. It's easy to feel the many variations of the emotion "what the...?" throughout the film but once it entices you, which it will do very early on, the strange sequence of events leading up to the even stranger climax is never dull.
The 2009 movie directed by Richard Kelly and starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as the married couple the parents to a young son Sam.
The movie is set in 1976 and the story is basicaly set around Norma and Arthur Lewis who are a middle class couple with decent carears and a lovely home.
Arthur is a nasa scientist who is hoping to get on the astronaut programme and Norma is a High school teacher.
One morning they get a box delivered to the house which holds a wooden box with a big red button.
When a stranger calls at their house he explains they will be given a million dollars if they press the button but this will mean someone in the world will die.
They have just 24 hours to decide what they will do.
We saw this advertised on another dvd and thought it looked a really good movie so used our free rental voucher for the month on it.
What can I say apart from the plot was totaly confusing, the first 45 minutes or so is just drop dead boring and there is no real coherent conclusion to the film.
I am the biggest horror/thriller movie fan going but this had neither within it.
I would avoid this like the plague its the worst film I have seen in ages!
A good story that just didnt work.
Available for £5.95 with free delivery from The Hut.
112 minutes of unbearable rubbish!!
(film only review)
Directed by Richard Kelly, (best known for Donnie Darko), The Box is based on a short story by Richard Matheson whose work has been made into the films; 'The Incredible Shrinking Man', 'Duel' and 'I Am Legend' amongst others. These credentials, along with a couple of favourable reviews put me in an optimistic frame of mind when I settled down to watch this recently.
A mysterious box is delivered to the suburban home of couple Norma and Arthur Lewis, (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) and their son, Walter. Norma is informed of it's purpose by Mr Steward, (Frank Langella), a man with a horrifically scarred face, who calls round later that day. It contains a button which, when pressed, will result in a reward of one million dollars, and, the death of a stranger. The couple have twenty four hours to make a decision, twenty four hours in which their financial circumstances are shown to be under great strain. It may seem inevitable that they will press the button, but what will be the extent of the consequences?
I think it's sad that this is presented as being a moral dilemma. It seems to be assumed that most people would find it a difficult choice. I hope not. It's not complicated, all that's really being asked is: 'Would you kill for money?'.
Set in Virginia, 1976, the feel of the era is reproduced quite convincingly, particularly the party scenes; extensive wood panelling and choice music helped take me back to my childhood - although this being a US production, people weren't smoking as much as I'm sure they would have been in reality. Unfortunately in this time period Cameron Diaz' plastified face was something of an anomaly. Some may think it a minor concern, but I found her face distracting, she clearly did not belong in the time period, which for me detracted from the films effectiveness. Part of the story concerns the fact that Norma Lewis has a limp and is humiliated by some students she teaches who want to see her feet. In my opinion they would have been more fascinated by her funny looking face, that might sound mean, but the attitude of - 'I'd sooner look really strange and be incapable of licking my lips than have a few wrinkles' makes me despair.
The short story on which The Box is based has previously been made into an episode of The Twilight Zone. I don't think I was aware of this when I watched it, but I was strongly reminded of the series, particularly during the early part of the film. I used to like it so this was no bad thing. As it progressed however, credibility was gradually stretched until it went over the top; each new character showed some sign of weirdity and the all round propensity for mysterious nosebleeds put me in mind of the TV series League of Gentlemen. This was a bad thing.
What begins as an original interesting idea is taken through increasingly preposterous convolutions and evolves into a padded out overblown absurdity. Mars landings, experiments on the human race, taking control of lightning, government conspiracies, rectangular columns of water (really gateways to pure bliss), nosebleeds..... before long nothing was making sense, or perhaps I just couldn't be bothered to look for it. Any early sense of coherence crumbles away and unearths what may as well be the drug addled ramblings of a fool who's done one acid trip too many. This film really wants to be profound, but it isn't. It's also utterly disjointed. The actors could be working their way through sections of multiple different films - all of them bad.
The actors didn't do too badly with their baffling material. Langella had the most onscreen charisma and acquitted himself very well, but other performances seemed somewhat perfunctory and the chemistry between Diaz and Marsden was limp at best. The most promising performance in this film for me was that of Sam Oz Stone who played the Lewis' son, Walter. It would be harsh to criticise too much as none of them were helped by the lack of character development in the script.
Ultimately I did not care what happened to any of them. This could and should have been so much better. Perhaps the praise heaped on Kelly for Darko has resulted him thinking that complication is the way to go. Wrong. This was a simple idea and would have been all the more effective if kept that way. Maybe there wasn't enough here for a film in the first place or maybe another director could have turned the original story into a corker. I think there was good reason for it being a short story in the first place - it only has one idea. Disappointingly, all Kelly has done is add a lot of rubbish to it.
A strong beginning to this film, with some nicely spooky atmosphere, soon becomes ridiculous, overlong and seriously eye roll inducing. I think Peter Bradshaw's Guardian review got it spot on: 'An intriguing premise turns in to 115 minutes of codswallop'. This codswallopery is then presented as a meaningful, mysterious sci-fi/spiritual hybrid. I don't mind a bit of hokum, I like unconventional, I like clever - this was just pretentious, patronising and boring. I managed sit through it to the end, although I was tempted to turn it off. Nothing would tempt me to watch it again.
Running time: 1 hr 55 mins/ 115mins
IMDB users have rated this 5.9/10
Meta Critic user score - 4.2
Rotten Tomatoes tomatometer gives it 45% with the consenus: "Imaginative but often preposterous, The Box features some thrills but largely feels too piecemeal."
Released on DVD and BluRay on the 19th of April this year "The Box" starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden was a film that I was eager to see. Trailers for the film certainly piqued my curiosity and as the film was directed by Richard Kelly who is probably best known for the cult classic Donnie Darko I was anticipating a quirky, thought-provoking thriller. With a running time of 112 minutes and carrying a UK certificate 12 rating this is my film only review of this title.
The storyline is quite simplistic really, Norma and Arthur Lewis are a young, married couple with a son, she is a teacher and he works for NASA. They make up a typical family who love one another but are facing the normal, everyday worries that often crop up for folk; she has just been told some bad news that affects her sons schooling and he feels stifled and unfulfilled at work and has been passed over for his dream job. Money issues are praying on their minds as a series of events befall the pair, are the couple just unlucky or is there some other influence that is controlling their destiny?...
Enter Mr Steward, a be-suited gentleman with a horrible facial disfiguration. He leaves a box on the couples doorstep in which sits a device with a big, red button. A note with the box explains that he will call back the next day to explain what the box is all about and as promised he turns up the following day with a proposition for Norma and Arthur - push the button and the couple will receive $1m but as a consequence somewhere, a stranger not known to the pair will die.
Faced with the moral dilemma Norma and Arthur don't know what to do, they need the money but can they live with the knowledge that they have killed someone? Is it all a big con and who is the mysterious Mr Steward - "The Box" attempts to address all of these issues in what is, a fascinating morality tale which appealed to me.
This is another one of those films which has divided opinion, some have lambasted the tale and dismissed it as a load of old rubbish whereas others loved it and fully bought into the dilemma faced by the two lead stars. Me? I found it a fascinating tale of consequences and even though there were parts that didn't quite ring true, overall I found it to be interesting and as anticipated, thought-provoking.
Cameron Diaz in particular seems to have come under fire for her portrayal as Norma, normally better known for her quirky, comedy roles here she takes on a serious part and delivers a straight performance. Adopting a Southern American twang to her accent she is quiet and understated throughout the film and personally I thought she delivered a convincing performance with the onscreen chemistry between her and James Marsden coming across as believable and compelling. Equally as good, Marsden as Arthur is on fine form who has to face up to the terrible consequences of his wife's actions when she does make the decision to push the button.
I'm sure it's not too much of a spoiler to reveal that Norma does indeed press the button. After all, if she didn't then the film would end after 15 minutes and that wouldn't make for an interesting story would it?, so of course for the plot to unfurl she has to take up Mr Stewards offer and its then that the tale takes a sinister twist. You see there is more than one box in existence, so although Norma is condemning a stranger to an early death, somewhere else another couple are facing the same dilemma, should they push the button? If they do then someone they don't know will die and that's where it becomes interesting, Norma has managed to involve herself and her family in the chain of events that befall anyone who pushes the button and by doing so becomes the 'stranger' to another couple. Realising that they have made a massive mistake and understanding the true consequences of letting monetary gain influence their decisions the couple then try to undo the damage they have caused and we begin to learn about the origin of the box and who is setting up the tests for the unsuspecting families and for what reason.
This is where the film takes an unexpected sci-fi twist, which for me felt wrong. The film descends into what felt like an extended episode of 'The X -Files' and as this wasn't even touched on in the trailers for the film it came completely out of the blue for me. Throughout the film I was reminded of the 1970s and 80's serials "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits" as it had a similar feel and it was no surprise to discover after reading more about the film that the concept and idea had already been the subject of a 30 minute Twilight Zone episode (see end of review for more information). This was my biggest problem with the film; I loved the idea and concept and even the acting but the film did drag on in the middle section and if you are old enough to remember the two serials I have mentioned then it did feel like an overlong episode of one of those shows.
At some points the film takes a surreal turn with some strange visual imagery as the character of Mr Steward and who he works for is explained along with how he sustained his facial injury, again for me these sections only seemed to interrupt the plot and pad out the film, they offered nothing overall to the story apart from attempting to provide a reason for the events and made for a unnecessary distraction away from the action. The plot does meander away quite often and I found myself becoming frustrated with the pacing with these irrelevant revelations and although by no means as ambiguous as Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko there are similarities between the two films and probably explains why the film wasn't received as well as it could have been from critics and other viewers. I would have preferred not knowing who or what Mr Steward was, and for the film to be left open for viewers interpretation as to the box's origin, by leaving things open I feel would have forced the audience to think about the points the film raised and leave us with our own opinions and feelings.
At its heart the film is a morality tale that works on the concept of how far someone would go for a large sum of cash, it leaves you questioning what you would do given the same dilemma - could you cause the death of someone you didn't know for monetary gain? What if the person you were condemning was a murderer or a rapist? Would that make it ok? On the other hand perhaps you would be causing the death of a child or any 'normal' member of society, could you do it then? Even if you would never find out who it was you were killing? An interesting idea if not preposterous and one that I pondered on long after the film had ended and so for me is the reason I rate the film as highly as I do.
Overlooking the padding in the middle sections and the unexpected sci-fi elements I did enjoy "The Box" but perhaps not as much as I was anticipating, my copy came from Lovefilm and I have to say that although I was glad to watch it I am more pleased that I didn't pay the £10.93 it is currently on offer on Amazon for to buy it outright. The film does get a cautious recommendation for me rather than a glowing, must-see one and I would suggest giving this one a rent from Blockbuster or online rather than parting with your cash.
An good 3/5 dooyoo stars from me, make your own mind up with this one I'm afraid.
Thanks for reading my review.
* Cameron Diaz as Norma Lewis
* James Marsden as Arthur Lewis
* Frank Langella as Arlington Steward
Directed and Produced by Richard Kelly
Written by Richard Matheson
Link to the Wikipedia page of "Button Button" the original Twilight Zone episode from which the film is based: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Button,_Button_%28The_Twilight_Zone%29
Trailer for "The Box": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFHa-ygkF_M
Please note that this review appears on ciao under my username