Movie Review: The Box, starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden

“I like a mystery, don’t you?” Arlington Steward (Frank Langella in The Box)

Cameron Diaz (Charlie’s Angels, The Mask) and James Marsden (X-men, The Notebook) star as a young married couple living paycheck to paycheck in the mid-1970s. With Christmas looming and unexpected setbacks hampering the couple, Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon, Masters of the Universe) shows up as if on cue with an unthinkable offer: Here’s a box, press the button inside and $1 million is yours. There's just one catch: When you press the button, a stranger will die.

Somewhere in the twilight zone I imagine Edgar Allan Poe is smiling at this premise.

From that simple, creepy formula, an elaborate and thought-provoking thriller unfolds. Almost immediately upon pushing the button, the world around the young couple starts caving in — their surroundings filled with unsettling characters that were obviously cast from Creepy Acting University.


Really on display here, though, are the film’s audio presentation and visual atmosphere. (The score is eerily reminiscent of The Shining.) The circa-1975 costuming and set choices do more than merely set the scene; they create an all-inclusive world that could exist in the past, in your mind, or wrapped in a metaphorical box. In order for The Box to work it needs to be intangible: realistic but not too close to reality.

In the end, The Box will surprise you, for better or for worse. There are certainly people who will loathe it and trash Kelly. I was sold on the macabre premise and felt treated to so much more than I expected. There is heart, morality, terror and deep, deep philosophy on display here. Fans of Jean-Paul Sartre will enjoy having their brains poked a little. The acting is about what you’d expect from those involved, with Langella’s performance controling the entire film. The actor owns the audience each time he appears on the screen. About Diaz and Marsden I will only say that you get what you'd expect. Keep an ear out for the former’s “Southern” accent, which comes and goes as if uncontrollable.

Should you see The Box? Yes, I think you should. Watch the trailer below and if you have any interest in what it’s selling, dive in. Just be prepared to keep an open mind because The Box will attempt to blow it apart.

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If Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe got together to do their own version of The Matrix, it would look a lot like Richard Kelly’s The Box. The Donnie Darko director returns with a morality tale that twists and turns around a complex story like barbed wire around a rose. No matter what notion you have of the film going in, you’ll have a drastically different one coming out; that I can guarantee you.

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