Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Box worth opening

Rating: ***

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 2:30 PM

THE BOX
***
DIRECTED BY
Richard Kelly
STARS Cameron Diaz, James Marsden

James Marsden and Cameron Diaz in The Box
  • James Marsden and Cameron Diaz in The Box

The Box is the latest picture from writer-director Richard Kelly, who with the cult fave Donnie Darko proved that he's one filmmaker able to think outside the box (ouch).

Adapting Richard Matheson's short story "Button, Button," Kelly has fashioned a complex tale out of a simple premise: A solemn stranger (Frank Langella) hands a married couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) a box and informs them that if they press the button on top, someone they don't know will die but they'll be rewarded with one million dollars for their action. It's not spoiling anything to reveal that the button does indeed get pushed (otherwise, it would be one helluva short flick), but no viewer can be expected to predict the myriad directions in which the movie travels. At its heart a fable about the moral choices we make and accepting the consequences of our actions, the film remains an original even as it touches upon other literary and cinematic sources to enhance its appeal: Sartre's No Exit plays a part, as does the writing of Arthur C. Clarke (the latter in turn leading to a visual sequence worthy of 2001: A Space Odyssey, itself based on Clarke's story "The Sentinel").

Admittedly, The Box doesn't hold up as a morning-after title, since reflecting on its events will reveal a fair share of plotholes. But both its imagination and its ambition sprint far beyond anything offered in the creatively neutered likes of Disney's A Christmas Carol or Law Abiding Citizen, and Kelly doesn't cheat in the final reels in a grasping effort to placate timid moviegoers. Conscientious in its actions yet radical in its approach, The Box demonstrates that, in this instance anyway, it's hip to be square.

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