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The Box

The Box

By Patrick Samuel • March 23rd, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date: November 6th, 2009
Running time: 115 minutes

Director: Richard Kelly
Writer: Richard Kelly (based on Button, Button by Richard Matheson)

Cast: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella, James Rebhorn, Holmes Osborne

I’ve often sat at my kitchen table with a calculator in one hand, looking worryingly at my pile of bills and wishing to myself “If only I had $1million”. I think it’s a feeling we can all relate to.

Those bills would be taken care of in an instant, that job at the office would be jacked in no time, that car I’ve been dreaming about would be sitting in the driveway of the mansion I just bought and that trip around the world my parents always talked about would finally be a reality for them.

But what would you really be willing to do for $1million? Lie, cheat, steal or maybe even kill? What if you someone offered you that much money and told you that by accepting the terms, someone you don’t know will die, would you still take it no matter how directly or indirectly you would be responsible for the death of another human being?

The Box

Set in 1976, The Box was directed by Richard Kelly, and after seeing his two previous movies, Southland Tales and Donnie Darko, I had the feeling this story, based on a short story Button, Button and a Twilight Zone episode of the same name, would also offer some pause for thought.

We meet a young couple, Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden), they have a son and while they both have good jobs, they are facing some tough times ahead. In the early hours one morning, a mysterious stranger leaves a package on their doorstep. Inside they find a simple wooden box with a button. Later that day, the stranger returns and introduces himself as Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), he tells the couple that if they push the button they will receive $1million, which he shows them, but that someone they don’t know will die.

With just 24 hours and the box left in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves faced with a moral dilemma that could have dire consequences. While Arthur is apprehensive, it’s Norma who ultimately decides to push the button and no sooner than she does, the proverbial Pandora’s Box comes to mind.

The Box

Once the button is pushed, they do receive the $1million but it’s not enough for them to forget about what they did. Plagued by guilt, the couple try to find out whose death they caused but all around them they begin to recognise signs, some quite sinister, that tell them to just move and enjoy the money. But they can’t.

What’s especially frightening about the situation is that Arlington says to the couple he will now give the box to someone they don’t know.

As it made its way toward an unexpected climax, The Box left me with so many questions, not because it didn’t answer them, but simply because it gave me so much to think about. I wondered if such a box really existed and if it did, did anyone ever refuse the offer.

The Box

The knowledge of being responsible, no matter how directly or indirectly, for someone else’s death would be too much bear. I couldn’t live with it, and who’s to say I wouldn’t be the next person who dies when someone else pushes that button? Yet, would it really matter, since we all have to die anyway?

What I felt that really fuelled the fear and anxiety experienced by the characters in the film was that they all seemed trapped by the life they made for themselves. In a way we all have a box, whether we realise it or not, our lives are surrounded by them, like Arlington says:

“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. Whereupon it is placed in the ultimate box, to slowly decompose.”

So no matter how much we wish for our bills to be taken care of, a magical box isn’t going to make it all better, but maybe realising a few existentialist truths might help.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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