The Box

Review by Patrick Samuel

The Box (2009)
Icon Home Entertainment

A happy, young couple, Norma (Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (Marsden) receive a simple wooden box as a gift. The box is accompanied by a mysterious stranger (Langella) who delivers the message that the box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button. However, pressing the button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world… someone they don’t know. With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves faced with a moral dilemma that could have dire consequences.

If you’ve been a fan of Donnie Darko and Southland Tales, then without a doubt you’ve been waiting for this movie. Having reached cult director status within a few years of his directorial debut (Donnie Darko), Richard Kelly seems to have started his career backwards because with each new film, expectations are always going to be high and often people are disappointed by or reject things they do not understand.

The Box (2009)

The Box (2009)

The Box is no exception. Adapted from an episode of the Twilight Zone by legendary sci-fi thriller author Richard Matheson, this movie was always bound to leave audiences confused but look closely and follow the pieces, very much the same way you would with a Hitchcock or David Lynch movie and it comes together. The clues are all there; from the couple given a choice right down to the mentions of Jean Paul Sartre. The movie is rich with existentialist thought and can be spotted by anyone who has ever questioned the absurdity and unfairness of life. The trademark Kelly moments are also there; the dance performance, the date notification at the beginning of the film and host of unusual characters who hint at knowing something the main characters can only guess at.

The movie has an authentic 1970’s feel to it which is great to see when most movies are keen to show off the latest gadgets and whatnots as a result of sponsorship. It’s also great that the soundtrack bears no resemblance to its predecessors as well and keeps up with the drama and suspense of an authentic 70’s movie. Both Diaz and Marsden play their roles convincingly but their onscreen romance and tragic ending does not have the same pull of the heart the way that Jake Gyllenhaal/Jena Malone and The Rock/Sarah Michelle Gellar had.

While it has many merits, The Box also comes with a few drawbacks. For one, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered but this is mainly due it seeming tremendously cut down. It feels as if there is a lot missing and judging by the length of his previous movies The Box does feel a bit short. Remembering back to the editing nightmare of Southland Tales we can see how this might have happened and can only hope for a directors cut release (we’re still waiting for Southland Tales Director’s Cut by the way Mr. Kelly!) We also love the fact that Holmes Osborne (the only actor to feature in all three of Kelly’s movies) plays a character called Dick Burns!

Cameron Diaz … Norma Lewis
James Marsden … Arthur Lewis
Frank Langella … Arlington Steward
James Rebhorn … Norm Cahill
Holmes Osborne … Dick Burns
Sam Oz Stone … Walter Lewis
Gillian Jacobs … Dana