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Quick Thoughts on "The Box"

Updated on October 10, 2012


Director: Richard Kelly
Cast: James Marsden, Cameron Diaz, Frank Langella, Sam Oz Stone, James Rebhorn

Based on a short story written by Richard Matheson called Button. Button, which was once adapted into a episode of The Twilight Zone, The Box has such a wallop of an opening half hour that it pains one to see the rest of the movie disintegrate into an incoherent and nonsensical bore. Set in West Virginia in 1976, the movie tells the story of a happily married couple — James Marsden’s Arthur Lewis and Cameron Diaz’s Norma Lewis – as they are made a lucrative offer from a scar faced stranger named Arlington Steward (Frank Langella): If they press a mysterious red button inside a small wooden box, they will receive a million dollars in cash, tax free. The catch, however, is that someone in the world, whom they don’t know, will die.

Because the movie runs nearly two hours long, it’s no surprise that they wind up pushing the button, and why shouldn’t they? Norma, an English teacher, has just learned that the discount on her son Walter’s (Sam Oz Stone) tuition at the private school she teaches at has been taken away, and Arthur’s dreams of becoming an astronaut are dashed after he fails the psychological portion of his exam.

There are endless possibilities with a premise like this, but the movie shoots itself in the foot with a second half that is as frustrating as it is incoherent. There are characters who seem to have pivotal roles in the story but who are completely forgotten down the road (A creepy student in Norma’s class; a babysitter who isn’t whom she appears to be). The screenplay by director Richard Kelly piles on more exposition than is necessary (the whole thing with the box involves NASA conspiracies, people who act like zombies and suffer from nosebleeds, etc) and features scenes that are as impossible to comprehend as they are needlessly overlong (the movie comes to a dead halt with a scene late in the film set inside a library).

The acting is very good, and both the cinematography by Steven B. Poster and production design by Alec Hammond are simply luminous (this is a visually striking movie). Yet the editing by Sam Bauer is so bad that there doesn’t seem to be any sense of consistency or continuity; the movie is all over the map. In the end, The Box is much like the character Arlington Steward and his offer: It promises great things, but it’s all down hill the moment that button is pushed.

Final Grade: ** (out of ****)

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    • Ebower profile image

      Erin Bower 5 years ago from Georgia

      I agree with you. This movie sounded exciting and mysterious when i saw the trailer, but wasn't quite what I expected when I saw it. I do like the fact that a viewer could construct meaning from it in various ways, but you are right, it lacked focus. I voted your review up and useful.

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 5 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      Thanks. :)

    • profile image

      Danielle 5 years ago

      I had heard some rather discouraging remarks on this film before but you made your points on the film's flaws a lot more detailed. Good and useful review for a movie that after further details I now feel even less inclined to watch, lol.

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 5 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      It really isn't worth it. There are other better, more challenging, and more thoughtful films out there.

    • VendettaVixen profile image

      VendettaVixen 5 years ago from Ireland

      Hmm, I always liked the short story, and I hate to see a good story ruined like this. Shame.

      Thanks for a really insightful review.

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 5 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      Thank you for reading. :)

    • profile image

      Sooner28 5 years ago

      I found the plot line to the movie to be very interesting. It made me wonder how many Americans, with our insatiable greed, would actually push the button. Glad to see another movie fan!

    • priley84 profile image
      Author

      priley84 5 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      It did have a very thought provoking premise, that is true. I just wish they worked with it better. :P

      Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy some of my other hubs. :)

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