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The Box (2009)

You Are The Experiment

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 115 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A

Donnie Darko is one of my all-time favorite movies, so despite hearing some not-so-favorable buzz about Richard Kelly’s latest oddball flick The Box, I went in open-minded. I get it, the hate—I’m not sure I get the DEGREE of hate (I read that it’s already, like, the 4th most reviled movie of the decade or something), but I do see where it’s an acquired taste.

So—what would you do? That’s kind of the question implied by the trailers and the set-up—what would you do if given a button that’s a mere push away from granting you $1,000,000 on the condition that some stranger, somewhere in the world, will die? Well, that’s the Philosophy 101 dilemma of the day faced by Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) when a mysterious box shows up at their door, followed by the equally mysterious, half-faced Arlington Steward (Frank Langella). Once they make their choice, they begin to realize they’re just a part of a much larger picture than they could have imagined, and from there, it all just gets wacky.

Where does one start? Yes, this is based on a short story by Richard Matheson, and yes, there was an episode of “The Twilight Zone” based on the same story, but this big screen version takes the original premise (and names) and adds in a whole bunch of other stuff. This isn’t a film to take at literal face value—don’t think there’s some plausible reason for how and why all these fantastical events and odd coincidences are happening, because this is one of those things that’s more about ideas, and about creative ways to shoot scenes, than it is about the practicality of “why” and “how.” It’s slow-moving at times, full of red herrings that go nowhere, and veers wildly off track somewhere near the middle, but for my money, it does find its way by the end.

Plus, at the very least, it’s indefinable—it’s not an easy fit into any genre, and though it’s not up to par with Donnie Darko, it’s core ethical dilemma is fun to debate, especially in light of the fact that Norma and Arthur aren’t THAT badly off—they go to plays and have decent jobs—yet they don’t seem that troubled by their possible role in someone else’s demise until they think they may be in danger themselves. Langella is awfully creepy as the sinister Steward, and Diaz and Marsden do well in roles in which one freaky occurrence after another is thrown at them, in that they seem almost resigned, from the beginning, to see all the weirdness through, so as an audience, if they believe, so do we.

It's Got: An intriguing dilemma, Nice cinematography, Uniqueness

It Needs: Suspension of disbelief, A little more tightening of the plot


Definitely not for everyone, and not up to the greatness of Donnie Darko, this latest effort from writer/director Richard Kelly is still interesting, thought-provoking, and not like anything else out there at the moment.