Movie Review: The Box (2009)

March 1, 2010 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

The Box is one of those films that’s likely to polarise viewers – either love the intriguing premise and go wherever the film takes you, or hate it for being a confusing mess.  That said, I found myself somewhere in the middle.  I was intrigued by it all but was not overly impressed.

Directed by Richard Kelly (who also co-wrote the script), best known for his cult masterpiece Donnie Darko, The Box deals with a fascinating idea.  Press a button and you’ll get one million dollars (1976 money), tax free – but someone in the world, someone you don’t know, will die.  It’s based on a 1970s short story by Richard Matheson called “Button, Button”, which got badly butchered by the Twilight Zone in the 80s (Matheson apparently hated the changes they made to it).

Sure, people in the world die all the time, but you’ll have to live with knowing that it was your greedy decision that directly led to that person’s death.  Would you do it?

Well, that’s what James Marsden (underrated Mr Cyclops) and Cameron Diaz (her face still looks weird to me) have to deal with in The Box.

Full credit to Kelly for infusing that Donnie Darko weirdness into The Box.  For starters, it has by far the most WTF moments since Mulholland Drive (coincidentally released the same year as DD).  You just never know where the film is heading, why people are doing the things they do or acting the way they are.  Is it an elaborate prank?  Is it a government experiment?  Is it even happening?  Am I crazy?

Of course, don’t expect any definitive answers to all your questions by the end of the film.  Usually, movies of this kind fizzle when they run out of places to go, but The Box manages to handle the final resolution pretty well, much better than I had expected.

That said, The Box didn’t blow me away or anything.  It’s good, but a notch below DD in terms of enjoyment, and nowhere near as memorable.

The Box is far from perfect, but I liked it.

3.5 stars out of 5!

[PS: I picked the poster with James Marsden in it – there is another version where it’s just Cameron Diaz’s weird face]