Review by Jack Foley
ANYONE anticipating that The Box would mark a return to form from Donnie Darko‘s Richard Kelly after the disastrous Southland Tales had best think again. The director once again loses his way.
The premise – based on a short story by Isaac Asimov – is certainly intriguing, focusing on a luckless married couple (played by Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) who are offered an intriguing conundrum by an enigmatic stranger (Frank Langella): press the button on top of a box and receive $1 million even though doing so will cost a human life.
Once they press that button, however, events begin to spiral out of control as alien conspiracies and end of the world scenarios take the story into supernatural, sci-fi realms.
Taken at its core, Kelly’s film examines the nature of relationships, human compulsion and greed and the stresses and strains that come with family. There are also issues of identity put forward by the fact that Diaz’s central character has a deformed foot, while Langella’s stranger is missing half his face.
The intrigue surrounding the repercussions of pressing the button is also nicely developed early on, with Kelly establishing a suitably creepy tone.
But as the bigger picture unfolds and the film enters Twilight Zone territory, events become much less satisfying and are only partly explained.
Die-hard Kelly fans may credit this with his steadfastly non-comformist approach to filmmaking, as well as his maverick spirit, but key scenes aren’t really explained, while the creepiness hinted at during the first half of proceedings feels stifled by the multi-plex friendly 12A certificate.
The ending, too, is well telegraphed in advance and ultimately feels underwhelming, thereby undermining any of the good work put in by the likes of Marsden, Diaz and Langella.
The overall result is yet another cinematic box from Kelly that’s not worth opening!
Running time: 115mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: April 19, 2010