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Archive for December 22nd, 2009

The Box

Richard Kelly made Donnie Darko in 2001, #8 on my top ten movies of the decade. There where suggestions at the time that we could be looking at the emergence of the next auteur or film making geniuses. Then he released a directors cut of the movie that succeeded in being the only directors cut I have come across that wasn’t as good as the original version of the film. this left me scratching my head. His next movie Southland Tales 2006 had moments of brilliance but on the whole was an incoherent self-indulgent mess. So how does his latest film The Box compare?

Actually quite well! Anyone who has seen the trailer knows what the film is all about. A couple Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) are given a mysterious box with a big red button on it. They are told by a strange old man (Frank Langella) with a disfiguring burn to his face that if they push the button they will receive a million dollars but someone somewhere in the world who they don’t know will die.

After Southland Tales one would expect Kelly to play it safe and make a mainstream movie but what he has actually crafted is an intriguing scfi-fi, horror, drama that asks a lot of questions and answers just enough to please but leaves enough unexplained to infuriate. We actually get existential philosophy not hidden in the subtext but overtly discussed in the movie a brave and bold thing to do. In asking the characters if they would push the button for a million dollars the film asks the same question of the audience. This on the surface is a high concept that people could debate forever, but it is actually Childs play in comparison the question that is asked of the characters at the end of the film.

The film looks amazing capturing the 70’s setting as successfully as David Fincher’s Zodiac did. The rest of the production is also good with taught direction keeping the film moving. The story has been filmed previously as an episode of The Twilight Zone and originally came from a short story by Richard Matheson who also wrote the much filmed I Am Legend. The Acting is pretty good too with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden making a believable couple but Frank Langella’s performance is a real show stealer.

As the box-office returns are testifying it is a film that won’t appeal to a lot of viewers but if you give it a chance you may just like it, I think it is a 50-50 bet. Many people I have spoken to hated it as much as I liked it.

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