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Genre: Thriller/Mystery
Director: Richard Kelly
Cast: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Basil Hoffman, Gillian Jacobs,
James Rebhorn, Michele Durrett, Andria Blackman, Lisa K. Wyatt
RunTime: 1 hr 56 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://thebox-movie.warnerbros.com/

Opening Day: 28 January 2010


Norma and Arthur Lewis, a suburban couple with a young child, receive a simple wooden box as a gift, which bears fatal and irrevocable consequences. A mysterious stranger, delivers the message that the box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button. But, pressing this button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world; someone they don't know. With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the cross-hairs of a startling moral dilemma and must face the true nature of their humanity.

Movie Review:

It’s one of those moralistic “what if you can achieve this at the expense of that” kind of questions which self important friend love posing to you. It’s one of those moments which you want to tell your friend off for how unrealistic and illogical his question is, at the same time quietly reflecting on how you would react if such a scenario happens in real life. It’s also one of those situations which you get really frustrated at how helpless you feel. And this is what this movie does to you – in both good ways and bad.

After the cult classic that is Donnie Darko (2001), American director Richard Kelly gives us another exasperatingly movie (2006’s Southland Tales wasn’t watched by that many people in Singapore due to its absence in local cinemas) that challenges your mind, and we mean every 116 minute of it. The science fiction thriller horror is based on a 1970 short story by Richard Matheson. For fans of the creepy TV series “The Twilight Zone”, they may recall watching an episode based on this story “Button, Button”.

In this film adaptation set in 1976 Richmond, a couple receives a box from a mysterious disfigured man who promises them a million dollars if they press the button sealed within a dome on top of a strange looking box (hence the title of this movie, get it?). The catch? Someone they do not know will die. Yes, this is the kind of moralistic question which may irritate some people to bits. And it is in this picture that viewers are brought on a journey of what some may deem far fetched, while others may deem thought provoking.

Given Kelly’s filmmaking style from Donnie Darko, one would expect this production to be an oddball, and how peculiar it is, indeed. The acting from main cast Cameron Diaz (My Sister’s Keeper) and James Marsden (27 Dresses) is somewhat stiff, and this somewhat fits the film’s mystifying mood. Complemented by the perfect production design (watch out for the intricacies which mark the unique look of the 1970s) and a hauntingly vintage score by Canadian band Arcade Fire (Win Butler, Regine Chassagne and Owen Pallett), the film is an engaging watch, only because viewers who are genuinely curious wants to uncover the truth behind the mystery. The two Hollywood stars are joined by veteran Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), who further adds to the baffling state of things. The spine tingling disfigured face is, of course, a huge contribution to the disturbing atmosphere of the film.

It may be better if you do not have background knowledge of the short story or the TV episode, because you can then see this as a fresh story instead of a rehash (comparisons will often bring us to unconstructive arguments). There are two story threads here, and they may not be congruent when presented together, but each one does provide substantial food for thought.

As bits and pieces of the story penned by Kelly himself are revealed, one cannot help but feel helpless at the seemingly directionless mood of the film. Why are there patches of water waves floating in mid air? Why are there zombie like people in the public library? Why are there hints of government conspiracies of alien abduction? And most importantly, why does the titular box take centre stage in the story?

As the last 20 odd minutes would tell you, there is indeed a moral behind this film. And as relevant as it is in today’s society, one needs to pull himself away from the initial weariness and vexing disposition to see beyond the absurd plot to appreciate the meaningful message behind this cautionary tale of morals and human nature.

Movie Rating:

(Suspend your belief and you’d walk away with a satisfying moral lesson)

Review by John Li


. The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)

. I Am Legend (2007)

. The Invasion (2007)

. Superman Returns (2006)

. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

. War of the Worlds DVD (2006)


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