The Box

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The latest film from ‘Donnie Darko’ director Richard Kelly arrives on these shores bearing the clawmarks of American critics. But don’t panic: while it’s true that the film’s sci-fi antics are far from watertight in the logic department, there’s enough eccentricity and ambition at play to charm and bemuse in equal measure. Building on the short story ‘Button, Button’ by ‘The Twilight Zone’ writer Richard Matheson, Kelly whisks us back to late 1970s Virginia. There we meet mid-ranking Nasa scientist Arthur (James Marsden) and his crippled schoolteacher wife, Norma (Cameron Diaz, below), whom Kelly recruits as two blow-dried lab rats for a deliciously overwrought interplanetary experiment. It begins when Frank Langella (missing a left cheek) knocks on their door, drops off a contraption with a red button on it and says that if they push the button, they’ll receive a million dollars – but someone they don’t know will die.

Shooting for the technology-driven guilt-racking of Michael Haneke’s ‘Hidden’ – but achieving something closer to the hysteria of the ‘Saw’ films – Kelly comes unstuck whenever he strains to say something smart. Points, too, are deducted for mistaking cynicism for satire, as in his 2006 folly, ‘Southland Tales’. Yet Kelly’s crackpot-inventor approach to filmmaking (note the second-half pile-up of nosebleeding bodysnatchers, watery gateways to Hell and sundry Arthur C Clarke quotations) has produced a provocative, Lynch-lite paranoia flick that flaunts some fascinating ideas on the destructive power of technology, the bourgeois desire for conformity and the potential horrors of parenthood. It also features a great soundtrack by Arcade Fire.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday December 4 2009
Duration: 116 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Richard Kelly
Screenwriter: Richard Kelly
Cast: Cameron Diaz
James Marsden
Frank Langella

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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LiveReviews|6
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usman khawaja

ok so how many movies did they hack to make this turkey from twilight zone to saw -and i felt really sorry for diaz -she deserves better than this -i kept sitting to make some sense of it but i think they were planning a sequel to this drastically dumb moral parable -so frank langella walked away with the BOX -it needs to be disposed off in outer space so no sequel can ever be squeezed out of this -though it had some interesting ideas to be fair and the acting was good but once is more than enough

Joe

One of the worst films I have ever seen in my life. Plot is all over the place and it's more or less impossible to make any sense of it. Unbelievably daft film.

Joe

One of the worst films I have ever seen in my life. Plot is all over the place and it's more or less impossible to make any sense of it. Unbelievable nonsense.

flix

Norma and Arthur seem to be well to do regular people; she's a teacher and he's a NASA scientist but they could do with a bit more money - who couldn't? A box turns up on their doorstep followed up later by a guy with half a face; he offers them $1million if they press the button but the catch is someone will die if they do. Norma's been told her son's school fees are going to increase, so she goes for the button push - this is odd as her family are loaded. From then on in life for Norma and Arthur is a bowl of very bitter cherries. Humanity is being tested by an unknown and unseen alien presence - they use our weaknesses and strengths to have some fun at our expense; I want to see the follow up where their get their buts kicked.

phill

thought the concept of film ie alien theme wth idea of a game of chance was thought provoking,enjoyed it and well worth the ticket money