The Box Review

Are you morally comfortable with the death of a human being you don't know in exchange for one million dollars? Richard Kelly wants to know.

The Box, starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella, is a weary thriller that fails to achieve. We are taken back to a 1976 Virginan doorstep where a mysterious cardboard box is left for the Lewises. Few keys are introduced that effectively achieve a visual of this not-so-complex time period, the stylist and set designer play a huge role in making this film terrible. Cameron Diaz, as Norma Lewis, lends a hand by being unable to speak in a proper Virginian accent, or anything resembling the dialect.  Arthur, James Marsden, and Norma live a nuclear life in a house with their one young son.  When we meet Arthur he is hard at work in NASA’s Langley Research Center producing an aid for his wife's handicap - a deformed foot. His performance is one of the few highlights of The Box, having both legitimate reactions and emotion.

Arthur’s dream is to become an astronaut but something steps in his path; he finds out his application has been rejected by NASA and he will be forced to work in the lab for the remainder of his career if he plans on staying with the company. His refusal of admission comes as a shock to both him and his superiors; Arthur's confusion stems from the fact he aced all the exams, only to find out he failed the psychological portion. Upset he comes home to decide with his wife whether or not to “push the button.”  Arlington Steward, played by Frank Langella, a burn victim and sinister male, dropped this box on the Lewis’s doorstep stating to Norma if they were to push the button they would receive one-million dollars, tax free, but in return someone in the world would die - someone they have never met.  No surprise here, they pressed the button.

The events to come after this event are messy and unsteady. We are taken everywhere from Arlington Steward’s sci-fi-esque world, a world he was welcomed to after being struck in the face by a bolt of lightning, to Arthur being introduced briefly to “the afterlife” which he returns to describe as “neither here nor there.”

Richard Kelly, director of Donnie Darko and Southland Tales, is well known for dark science-fiction. One may think he would continue on with his wayward vision, able to produce groundbreaking stories, yet his track record post-Donnie Darko remains questionable.

The Box, a plot derived from Richard Matheson’s short story Button, later immortalized as a Twilight Zone episode, could have been insanely pleasurable. There are ideas that prove the director indeed has the talent, but seems to have lost his way in how to use it. Five-minute clips that are stellar are thrown together into a jumbled mix. Kelly clearly had too many ideas to be placed into his 120-minute time restraint. I truly wonder what I would have watched had he been given an extra hour.

Through confusing mazes and discoveries Arthur Lewis, whose “psychological issues” never resurface, is faced with a final impossible decision. Perhaps it’s only Kelly who knows the true meaning of his contrived ending. Unfortunately you’ll have to suffer through the mess to discover Arthur’s choice and the results thereafter.

DVD Bonus Features

No extras to be noted in this one.  There is however a neat interview with Richard Matheson for all you literary buffs out there.

"The Box" is on sale February 23, 2010 and is rated PG13. Drama, Sci-Fi. Directed by Richard Kelly. Written by Richard Kelly (Screenplay), Richard Matheson (Short Story). Starring Cameron Diaz, Deborah Rush, Frank Langella, James Marsden, Sam Oz Stone.



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