Directed by: Richard Kelly
Premise: A married couple (James Marsden and Cameron Diaz) with financial troubles receives a box from a mysterious visitor (Frank Langella). Pressing the button on the box will give them a million dollars but it will also cause the death of some person unknown to the couple.
What Works: The first act of The Box is very well done. The film sets up a couple with a credible relationship, both in their love for each other but also in their flaws, and the choice facing them has the potential for a great story. Frank Langella does a great job as the strange salesman and sells the Twilight Zone-like premise of the story.
What Doesn’t: The Box suffers from a second act that runs all over the place with no focus or narrative goal. Instead of making the climax of the story the decision about whether or not to push the button, that decision gets made right away and the film then goes off on tangents about extraterrestrials or the supernatural, although it is never quite clear just what is powering the box or its peddler. In a desperate attempt to make things unnecessarily complex, the film takes unneeded and incoherent twists and turns until it finally arrives at a climax that is so removed from the initial premise of the story that it seems like a completely different movie. The Box demonstrates a considerable amount of influence from the Saw films, but what The Box ignores is how to tie the flaws of the characters into the designs of the villain. There does not seem to be any purpose to this either on the side of villain’s motives or in what the heroes of the story have to learn about themselves and each other. In addition to the narrative problems, some of the filmmaking is weak, especially in the sound editing and the music score, which is so overbearing that it is likely to snap viewers out of the film.
Bottom Line: The Box is a waste of a good premise. Although it has a promising start, the story falls apart halfway through and never recovers.
Episode: #266 (November 22, 2009)