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Review: The Box


Before I get started, let me get this out of the way. I hate when period pieces use the Benadryl haze to make it appear in the past. Public Enemies and No Country for Old Men both worked as period films without using the crutch of cinematography tricks. There, it had to be said.

Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) are a teacher and NASA employee in Richmond, VA. They don't make a lot of money, but they do what they can with what they have.

They are awoken one morning to find a box sitting on their front stoop. Once it is opened, the box informs them Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) will meet them at 5 p.m. the following evening.

Arlington Steward arrives and his appearance initially frightens Norma because of the massive burns that have erased almost half his face. Steward presents the deal: press the button and two things will happen 1) you will receive a cash sum of $1,000,000 and 2) someone they do not know will die. The deal is only available for twenty-four hours and then he will return to claim the box.

Initially, Arthur assures Norma that the whole deal is a hoax and the joke will be revealed at Norma sister's wedding. When pressed for money after their son's scholarship has been dropped and Arthur's application to become an astronaut is declined, the decision to press the button becomes much more than something to shrug off.

Anyone familiar with Richard Kelly's work (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales) knows that sometimes he veers into the realm of weirdness for only its own sake. But for once the weirdness in The Box makes sense and the film really takes off with the moviegoer gripped in suspense not quite putting it all together.

Frank Langella, while not given the material of another outstanding lead such as Frost/Nixon,
steals the show right out from Diaz and Marsden's feet. He makes this film very compelling for what could have been a throwaway villain.

Richard Kelly is an intriguing auteur because while his ambitions may sink him, you know he will never trot out a G.I. Joe or Transformers film. This film is probably most efficient as a scathing look about morality and the repercussions of greed in America, but it also succeeds as a thinking-man's horror film. With The Box's very split reactions, the film is just about critic-proof, you'll have to see for yourself.

**1/2 out of ****

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