The Box: Movie Review
If someone promised to give you a million dollars (tax free) and all you had to do was shoot someone, would you do it? I’ll assume that you would be astonished at such a terrible offer.
Well, what if someone told you that all you needed to do to get the million was to press a button. Someone you didn’t know would die as well, but all you had to do was press the button ... would you do it? Well, would you?
The recently released (2009) movie “The Box” explores the depths of a human soul, in all its capabilities and inabilities, in a strange sci-fi horror kind of way. “The Box” was written and directed by Richard Kelly, the writer and director of “Donnie Darko”. The plot is based on the short story “Button, Button” by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the novel I Am Legend. “The Box” is a surprisingly good film, despite the negative criticism it has received. James Marsden and Cameron Diaz deliver excellent performances, portraying well their characters’ tumultuous inward struggles.
The plot is gripping and intense. A man missing half his face arrives early one morning at the home of Arthur (James Marsden) and Norma (Cameron Diaz) and enters to offer them the chance of lifetime (never open the door to strangers, kids). He gives them a box with a large button on it (think Deal or No Deal). They have twenty-four hours to push the button. Two things will happen when the button is pushed: 1) Arthur and Norma will receive one million dollars (tax free) and 2) someone unknown to them will die.
Arthur and Norma are normal everyday people. They have dreams and setbacks, successes and failures. And they have a son. They live paycheck to paycheck, and both of them have recently experienced setbacks in their careers. Norma has a disfigured foot that needs surgery. A million dollars sound really good to them, but we know better. They’re a nice, well-meaning family; they wouldn’t consciously hurt someone for their own gain. Or would they?
Would you press the button?
They consider their options for twenty-three hours. They justify to themselves their reasons for pressing the button, they contemplate whether it’s all a hoax, but in the end, Norma pushes the button. The strange man arrives, gives them the million dollars, picks up his button, and leaves. Instantly, guilt seeps into Arthur’s and Norma’s hearts and over their faces and they beg the man to take back his money, but it’s too late. They did what they did and must live with the consequences.
So Arthur and Norma could go back to their routine lives, pay their bills, and send their son to a really great college, or they could just give the money to a charity and forget that it ever existed. But no, they lock every last bill in a safe in their basement. Arthur and Norma are thrown into a hurricane of right-and-wrong, and they are flooded with fear and danger. The movie progresses faster at this point, as the sci-fi-horror effects take over. But Arthur and Norma's guilt only grows worse as time goes by.
As a movie, “The Box” is scary. As a story, it is a deep insight into the heart of a person. We can relate to Arthur and Norma. We can understand their desire for material gain. We feel their guilt and their shame. We desire forgiveness. But no matter how hard they try, they can’t erase what they’ve done. And neither can we.
The beginning of the movie starts off with the button question. But the ending asks a new one. Arthur and Norma are faced with another life-or-death question, but this time they know the person who will die. Will they do it again and murder another person? Or will they seek grace and live, even if it means they have to live with hardship and miserable suffering?
What is the right decision? I don’t mean the less painful decision, but the right decision.
When it comes down to it, we all have the ability to press the button, to murder. Yes, every one of us. Left on our own, we’d all be pushing the buttons, killing each other off. We are doomed for failure. The movie got this far. I would like to take it a step further. I believe God is in sovereign control over all of life. The reason we’re not all murderers is that God restrains us totally depraved people. God has the power to save us. We have no power to do good on our own. Through Jesus Christ alone, we can be renewed and regenerated.
“The Box” leaves us with no hope. It tells a compelling story that resonates well with our heart of hearts. We are a condemned people, with a vague hint at the possibility of forgiveness and the impossibility of our accepting it. This is a stark message, but a true one. We are hopeless on our own. We need a Savior.