The Box - Movie Review
One can't help but find correlations between The Box and it's ancient predecessor The Day The Earth Stood Still (lets forget there was a remake shall we). There is a familiar problem with films featuring the whole "Shape Up Or Ship Out" message addressed to all mankind. I can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it's just resentment toward the filmmaker who deems it necessary to rebuke all humanity. Maybe it's just not really what we want to hear.
In this case the filmmaker is Richard Kelly who was previously known for his cult classic Donnie Darko, and then later known for his flop Southland Tales. I hadn't seen the latter of the two, but for myself and many others, Darko more than makes up for any fluke. Kelly has a keen ability to take characters and place them into situations completely inconceivable to not only them, but even the audience. Still, much like the series LOST, there is a distinct notion that it all makes complete sense.
The Box begins with a seemingly simple premise. Set in the 1970's, housewife Norma (played by Cameron Diaz) is one day given a box by a mysterious authority with a quite noticeable disfigurement. He lays out the deal simply by saying that if she pushes the button in the box someone she doesn't know will die, and she will receive one million dollars. She and her NASA employee husband spend the next 24 hours deciding what to do.
Of course, we know they're going to push it. The movie takes its sweet time for them to push it. I for one was yelling for them to just "push the damn button" and get on with it.
The movie is a bit plodding in the pacing, but apart from the button-pushing hesitation, I actually kind of liked it. The film is slow in the way The Shining was slow. The viewer is eased into a strange world populated by interstellar gateways, mind controlled "employees," and eerie motel swimming pools. I really admire the world Kelly creates.
Unlike Donnie Darko, which took more time to explain as to actually watch, The Box is a film that nestles itself into a surprisingly comfortable place between complete perplexity and complete understanding. I was alright with some things staying a mystery. That said, at times I was also alright with scrapping the whole project altogether. What made Donnie Darko work was that the film had enough dynamic characters to make you really want to understand everything because you actually cared whether or not it all worked out for the best. Here the characters seem vaguely interesting at first, but apart from physical abnormalities they're really quite flat underneath the surface.
The Box is filled with so many ideas though that you can't help but interact with it. There are final notions here of the concept of choice being an illusion that makes the whole message of "Shaping Up Or Shipping Out" quite ironic. In that, the film gives its greatest twist. There are some things I still wish they had explored, notions of forgiveness and mercy, but what's great about movies like these are that some things are left to you to explore for yourself.