Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Box

Based on a short story by Richard Matheson that I haven’t read, THE BOX is the story of a young couple faced with an awful choice. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a schoolteacher and a scientist, respectively, who live and work in Virginia in 1976. She teaches at an exclusive private school, he’s an engineer for NASA who wants to be an astronaut. They have a young son and appear to be a happy couple.

But then things start going wrong for them, not the least of which is the unexpected appearance of a strange box on their doorstep. Then they get a visit from the disfigured stranger who left it there, who has an ominous proposition for them. If they push the button on the box, they’ll get a million dollars in tax-free cash, which they sorely need. But, as the stranger explains, if they push the button, someone they don’t know, somewhere in the world, will die at that same moment.

It’s a creepy set-up for a story, and the filmmakers play that creepiness for all it’s worth. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that the button gets pushed, and of course, bad things happen and nothing turns out like the people involved think that they will (although I was waiting for one more twist that never showed up).

THE BOX is a well-made movie, but I think it would be a stretch to say that I actually liked it. It’s such a cold, bleak, and impersonal film, without even any small moments of humor to break up the grim proceedings. At least that’s the way it seemed to me. And of course, it’s entirely possible that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But it didn’t really work for me, and while I’m not going to say you shouldn’t watch it, I can’t actually recommend it, either.

7 comments:

Vince said...

I have to confess that I have no idea what happened in this movie. None. Beautifully made, completely baffling.

James Reasoner said...

I forgot to mention something that really bothered me. At one point two of the characters look at a stack of ASTOUNDING issues (pulp-sized, but I couldn't tell if they were real or reproductions made for the movie). While it's always good to see pulps in a movie, one of the characters then refers to them as comic books. Arrgh!

ARCHAVIST said...

Anything Cameron does gets my seal of approval

David Cranmer said...

I remember this as an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE remake of the eighties. Those thirty minutes were memorable. No one I've talked to seems to really enjoy this version. But it won't stop me from checking it out and your review shows me there are elements I'll enjoy.

MP said...

This is a pretty bleak and depressing movie, but I enjoyed it. I recall reading Matheson's story years ago and wanted to reread it, but can't seem to locate it even though I know I have it around somewhere. The movie is confusing, and the more it tries to explain itself the more confusing it gets. Well worth seeing, though.

Todd Mason said...

James--of course they're comic books. Everyone knows pulps are paperbacks. EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS.

As they known chimps and gorillas are monkeys, and lots of people do horrible things to gerbils and then implant them. (though I'm sure a few intoxicated folks have gotten that stupid by now).

Rod Barnett said...

I, too, was unimpressed when I caught this theatrically last year. It's a mess that throws so many (mostly bad) ideas around that it becomes clear the writer/director didn't know just how to stretch the material to feature length. But then I've not enjoyed any of director Kelley's films so that I would dislike it comes as no surprise.