The Box (M)

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Review byMatthew Turner18/03/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 116 mins

Richard Kelly's creepily atmospheric thriller starts well and is suitably dark and weird throughout but it starts to unravel in the second half and becomes increasingly pretentious and annoying.

What's it all about?
Directed by Richard Kelly and based on both a short story and a Twilight Zone episode by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), The Box is set in 1976 Virginia and stars Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as Norma and Arthur Lewis, a strapped-for-cash couple with a teenaged son (Sam Oz Stone). Then a facially disfigured stranger (Frank Langella) turns up on their doorstep with a mysterious black box with a red button on it and tells them that if they push the button, they will earn $1 million but someone they don't know will die as a result.

The couple duly agonise over whether they should do it or not, before Norma abruptly decides to go ahead and push the button. However, the pair soon find themselves drawn into a bizarre world involving mind-controlled, nose-bleeding neighbours, blocks of water suspended above beds, sinister librarians and a massive conspiracy that seemingly involves both NASA and a mysterious alien race.

The Good
The Box is something of a mixed bag; the performances are good (Langella manages to be both avuncular and sinister at the same time, whilst it's actually unsettling to see Diaz and Marsden in non-comedic roles) and the film is as dark and weird as you'd expect from the director of Donnie Darko. Kelly maintains a suitably creepy atmosphere throughout and the frequently twisty plot is both intriguing and unpredictable, at least in the first half.

The Bad
The main problem is that you spend a long, long time waiting to find out where the film's going and then when you get there, it's something of a disappointment. The main reason for this is that the plot becomes increasingly pretentious and annoying as it goes along and by the time Arthur finds himself suspended in a block of water, you could be forgiven for thinking the film was just being weird for the sake of looking cool. That said, the finale ties things together quite nicely – it's just a bit of an effort getting there.

Worth seeing?
The Box isn't entirely satisfying and the first half is much stronger than the second but it's still worth seeing on balance, for its ambition and general weirdness alone.

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Content updated: 24/01/2019 01:49

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