The Box; Are Strangers Expendable? Even if it's for a Million Dollars
The Box is movie that presents the viewer with a moral dilemma. How would you choose if a stranger were to present you with a black box with a button on top? This box is empty and has a red button on top. If you press the button two things will happen. The first thing that will happen is a stranger will die somewhere in the world. The second event is that you will receive one million dollars. How would you choose?
Have we come to a point in history, when strangers are expendable? This movie is a commentary on the state of the world right now. How many times do we see people dying in the news and not even give it a second thought? A trainer at Sea World was savagely killed by one of their whales and yet, it is still being debated, whether or not to destroy this animal. How insensitive have we become to the value of a human life. At the root of some of this is the love of money.
If there was such an experiment, how many of us would press the button? Would there be even a few, that rise above the occasion and tell the man making the offer. “Leave my house right now, and take your box with you, I will have no part in murdering anyone; not even a stranger.” How many out there have the integrity to voice their convictions in such a way? I’d like to think that there are still a good many people out there, who would not partake in such an offer, even for a tempting sum of money.
The story begins in Virginia, the year is 1976, and Norma and Arthur are asleep in their bedroom and they hear the doorbell. Norma (played by Cameron Diaz) goes to see who’s at the door. When she opens the door she finds a box on her door step and she sees a black car that leaves at that moment. You would think that at this point she would have called 911, in case there was a bomb in that box. No, this was 1976, before terrorist attacks, so naïve Norma takes the box into the house. Given the actual contents of this box, they may have been better of if it was simply a bomb.
In the next scene Arthur (played by James Marsden), Norma, and their son, Walter (played by Sam Oz Stone) are sitting at the breakfast table with the box in front of them. There is a card attached to it. On the card it says that they will be visited by Mr. Steward at 5:00PM. They are all very calm and think nothing of it.
As the day progresses, strange things happen. Norma is asked a question by a rather snide student, named Charles (played by John Magaro) who wants to know why she limps. He even requests that she show the class her foot. It is revealed that Norma doesn’t have all her toes. When Norma was seventeen her brother dropped a barbell on her foot causing her to break several toes. She went to the doctor and the doctor carelessly left the X-ray machine running while unattended. Norma’s toes were fried from the radiation and she had to have them amputated. This created for Norma a lifetime of pain and limping.
On that same day Norma is given the bad news that her son’s tuition discount is no longer available for faculty members. Norma and Arthur spend too much, as it is and this really creates a hole in their budget. Arthur, who works for NASA on the Mars project, also receives bad news. He had applied to be an astronaut in the Mars mission, but his application was rejected. Norma and Arthur are frustrated about these events in their lives and the state of their finances. It’s not that they are poor; it’s that they both spend way too much money.
Suddenly at 5:00PM, that day, as stated on the card Arlington Steward (Played by Frank Langella) appears at their house. He wants to make a proposal to Norma. He explains that the box has a button on top and two things will happen if the button is pressed. The first thing that will happen is a stranger will die somewhere in the world. The second thing that will happen is they will receive a million dollars, tax free. There are several rules; first of all, they cannot investigate Mr. Steward's identity, second, they are not to tell anyone about this offer. Third, they only have twenty four hours to make up their minds, whether or not to press the button, otherwise the box will be delivered to someone else and the offer will be made to the next one's on Mr. Steward's list. Mr. Steward also gives Norma a crisp hundred dollar bill just for hearing him out and letting him enter their house.
If Norma was truly a woman of integrity, she would have given Mr. Steward back his box and his hundred dollar bill and she would have told him that she would have no part in the murder of anyone; even if that person is a stranger. Unfortunately, Norma does not have that kind of integrity and she stays with the box and the temptation the box brings with it. After all, isn't this instant gratification in it's most simple form. Press a button and get a million dollars. The person that dies has no connection with her or her family, so there really is no cost to her, when pushing the button, or is there.
In the next scene we see Norma and Arthur in their home, deciding what to do with the box. Arthur even takes the box apart and finds that there is nothing in it. They wonder if someone is playing a prank on them. Arthur even tells Norma that the stranger that might die could be someone’s baby. Norma responds by saying it could be someone on death row. Greed is getting the better of Norma, until she can't take it anymore and presses the button.
At that moment a gunshot is heard and we see a small girl huddled in a bathroom. Five minutes later Mr. Steward appears on their door step and hands them a briefcase full of money. Arthur tries to give it back when he hears that the box will be given to another stranger. There is no turning back, once the button has been pressed.
This is followed by a deadly chain of events. Little by little, Arthur and Norma learn that they are part of a macabre experiment in human behavior. An experiment being conducted by Mr. Steward, who has the appearance of a burn victim, because was struck by lightning a short while back. He made a miraculous recovery after being pronounced dead. Mr Steward has come back from another dimension and answers to his new employer. When asked who his employer is, he simply doesn’t answer. Arlington has many working for him. He has the ability to control minds.
Greed has created a tireless web for both Arthur and Norma. Their lives are changed forever. They discover that this experiment has implications that go beyond this world. They realize that their selfish behavior will not go unpunished. Suddenly at a party their son is kidnapped and Arthur is given an explanation by a man at the party. He kidnaps Arthur and takes him in his car. During the ride, he tells Arthur that he had to kill his wife to save their daughter. Author looks through a booklet, in the man's car, that gives details on the experiment being done to them. While driving they are stopped by a mysterious Santa Clause figure that is ringing a bell. Moments later, a car comes out of nowhere and kills the man that is with Arthur and at that instant Arthur is transported to large complex.
Soon after the couple is gathered together at their home, there at their house they meet with Mr. Steward. Mr. Steward makes them a new offer. The offer is as follows: they can live the rest of their lives with their son, who is now blind and deaf and enjoy their million dollars or Arthur can kill Norma by shooting her through the heart, at the instant Norma dies, their son will recover his ability to see and hear. Their son will inherit the money on his eighteenth birthday, but he will left orphaned with a father in prison or death row. Either choice carries severe consequences for Arthur, Norma and their son. There are no other choices and no forgiveness; it is too late for Norma and Arthur.
What option will Norma and Arthur choose? I could answer that question, but dear reader, that would spoil the surprise and I certainly would never do that. One can’t help but wonder, what would be the less selfish of the two choices. Live with a son, who is permanently handicapped, as a result of your selfish deeds, or decide to let yourself get shot and have your husband go to jail for shooting you. There is the evil web that is woven, when one lacks in conviction and doesn’t do the right thing to begin with.
If you want to see an interesting psychological mystery thriller, that will keep you on the edge of your seat, see The Box. This movie is not only entertaining, but thought provoking as well. One of the best mystery thrillers I have seen in a long time.
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