The Box
“Don’t worry, Gwyneth’s head is NOT in the box.”

Theatrical Release Date: 11/06/2009
Director: Richard Kelly
Cast: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella, James Rebhorn, Holmes Osborne, Sam Oz Stone, Gillian Jacobs, Celia Weston

From writer/director Richard Kelly comes “The Box,” like setting his breakthrough film “Donnie Darko” in the 80s and making it a period piece by default his film takes place circa Christmas 1976 in Texas (maybe his next film will take place in the 60s). The film is a suspense thriller, and although not particularly scary; the film is genuinely creepy and intriguing. It centers around an unusual offer … press a button; get a million dollars, and to balance the karmic scales, some unknown person dies as a result … oh and you only have 24 hours to decide.

The movie is well cast and acted, with the likes of Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella (not to mention Kelly favorite, Holmes Osborne); though I found it annoying when Diaz would occasionally drop her accent. The costuming, sets, and make-up were fantastic (especially that used in conjunction with CGI to disfigure Frank Langella’s face). As he has done his previous work, Kelly made sure the costumes were classic understated period pieces that didn’t overwhelm the audience, making it appear phony. The home interiors were loaded with details straight out of the seventies, including beautiful details like retro-wallpapers with matching sofa and chairs and for you car aficionados, a beautiful silver 70s corvette.

On the negative side, the story line is complex and hard to figure out. The plot leaves the audience in the dark; making is extremely difficult to see the direction movie is going, until you actually get there. In this regard, the film is heavily reminiscent of “Donnie Darko”, although “The Box” is not as engaging or easy follow.

Without giving too much away, there are multiple scenes where actors move in unison, adding tremendously to the tension and creepy vibe of the movie. Basically, this film is a behavior experiment gone horribly awry; leaving the audience thinking and questioning if they would pass the test. Moreover if we were truly honest with ourselves, I think that many of us would have to admit that we would inevitably fail.

SPOILER ALERT (Skip to the next paragraph, if you wish to avoid): I disliked that this film blamed the wives (since this offer is made to multiple couples) for pushing the button, especially since couples collaborated and came to the decision together. It reminded me how Eve is portrayed as a villain, when Adam also made the decision to eat the forbidden fruit.

Overall, “The Box” is a good movie even though it is paced very slowly, deliberately and felt a touch longer than the runtime of 115 minutes. For those who like “Donnie Darko” and the work of M. Night Shyamalan, I think you’ll like this. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then this movie may be a miss. I would have problems freely recommending this movie because I don’t think the majority of audiences will appreciate it, therefore I’ll give this film a 3 out of 5.