If a box mysteriously appeared at your doorstep, and a stranger offered you $1 million to simply push the box’s red button, you would probably think this was some crazy prank. You might even call the police to get the creep and his box away from your house.
What if you actually listened to him and let him explain this “Box?”
In the movie “The Box,” Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz) decides she will listen. The times of 1976 in Virginia are economically tough for Norma and her husband, Arthur (James Marsden). Her teacher tuition reimbursement has been rejected, and Arthur, an optical engineer at NASA, failed to receive a much-desired and needed promotion.
“We are already living paycheck to paycheck,” says an upset Norma.
After wondering what they are going to do, Norma, one early morning, answers the doorbell only to find a little square box at her doorstep. Upon opening it, she and Arthur discover not only a box with a red button, but they also find themselves meeting the badly scarred Arlington Steward (the brilliant Frank Langella), who left the box.
He gives them two choices regarding the box: they can push the button and instantly receive $1 million or not push the button and nothing will happen.
But there is a catch.
Like all good movies, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If they decide to push the button, they will get the money, but one thing will happen in consequence: someone in the world will die. It could be anyone. However, it will be someone they don’t know.
“It could be someone on death row,” Norma says, attempting to justify the decision. After much deliberating, she punches the button.
And this is where things not only get messy for the Lewises, but also for the audience watching this convoluted morality tale.
Signature to his style, Richard Kelly, acclaimed director of cult favorite “Donnie Darko,” crafts a story of weird science, alien conspiracies, mind-controlled people, and more bizarre bubbly goop (just watch Kelly’s previous movies). Kelly got this plotline from what was loosely based on a short story by Richard Matheson called “Button, Button” that appeared in the iconic television series, the “Twilight Zone.”
The imagery moves like a dream. Dark jaded colors and an eerie musical score cause the audience to wonder if they have truly entered the “twilight zone.” Even more enthralling are the surprising performances by Diaz, Marsden and Langella. Diaz embodies the spirit of her desperate character; Marsden understands the emotionally torn state of Arthur; but Langella captures the audience’s interest with his unnerving but philosophically brooding character, something akin to the grim reaper and Virgil of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”
However, despite the positives, Kelly takes the audience on a bizarre journey where the characters are forgotten and the viewers instead concentrate on the why, who, how, and the “what the heck is going on here?” elements of the story.
The movie may appeal to religious audiences because of its many biblical allusions. The movie hints at the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Arlington offers them the forbidden fruit, and, like Eve, Norma takes it and Arthur/Adam does not stop her. They are then thrust out of their comfortable lives into the terrible world of consequences.
At one point, Norma asks Steward, “Can we be forgiven?” Good question. But again questions are answered with more questions.
Children should not watch this movie, not only because of the violence but because they most likely won’t understand it. Adults and teens are the targeted group, who may appreciate the mysteriousness and weirdness of the plot, but that group will be few and far between.
But who knows? The movie may confuse the heck out of everybody now, but in the end it may just end up being the next – *cough, cough* – “Donnie Darko. Yet, as usual, the choice is up to the viewer.
Just push the play button and find out.