November 8, 2009
Review - " The Box " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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not know someone and if we take an action that seems harmless but will kill them, would we still do it, particularly if we stand
to gain from it? This film suggests yes, and that human compassion and empathy is limited solely to those who we are
personally connected to. You later figure out the Lewis' were really manipulated into their financial situation - in other words
they were set up to fail.
As a film, Kelly is his usual directorial self, creating sequences that are both bizarre and fascinating, such as the scenes
where we see Steward in his lair, or when Arthur has to choose between three water portals to find the path to salvation. The
higher powers in this story are never really clear - at times Kelly suggests aliens (and there is a Mars exploration subplot),
but other times more religious tones come in to play, with Arthur learning that he may have had a glimpse in to the after life.
One of the standout qualities of the film is the character of Arlington Steward. He is charming and creepy, all at the same
time, and his facial disfigurement (his left cheek and jaw are missing, having been burnt in a lightning strike) makes him look
other-worldly. Cameron Diaz is particularly good in this film, offering a more restrained and mature performance than what we
usually see from her.
The last quarter of the movie is not particularly satisfying. Nothing is ultimately resolved other than that Steward's tests will
continue, and that each of his new test subjects will take the same path as Norma and Arthur. Moments earlier in the film,
such as when Norma identifies with Steward's facial disfigurement, are mocked in the end, when Steward still makes Norma
pay the price for having pushed the button. Although the film does take you on a mostly enjoyable, if bizarre, journey that is
worth taking, the ending does give you a small sense of "what's the point?". After all, with nothing resolved and nothing
gained by the characters, the only thing we are left with is an intellectual philosophy.
Unfortunately, it’s really just another trademark
Richard Kelly film, drowning in oblique excess.
Kelly has turned a simple premise into a wild
conspiracy yarn involving the Viking Mars
mission, sinister public libraries, the philosophy
of Jean-Paul Sartre, mysterious nose bleeds,
amputated toes, and towering blocks of CGI
Jell-O that allow you to briefly pass through
the afterlife. It’s almost as hilariously muddled
as “Southland Tales”, with the key difference
being that “Southland Tales” was trying to be
While the movie features good performances,
particularly from Langella, none of it makes
any damn sense whatsoever.
This one is a bit of a missfire.
Directed by: Richard Kelly
Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella
An unusual, bizarre and multi-faceted thriller from 'Donnie Darko' director
Richard Kelly, who manages to steep this film with with solid
performances from its cast, although it does become somewhat
ridiculous and anti-climatic by the end.
The film starts off quite simply: a box is delivered on the door step of the
home of Norma and Arthur Lewis (Cameron Diaz & James Marsden).
Norma brings the box inside, unwraps it, and finds a simple, but well
designed box on the inside, with a red button on top. Inside is a note that
"Arlington Steward" will be calling upon them at 5pm the next day.
Steward (Frank Langella) arrives on time, and makes an offer: push the
button, someone in the world they do not know will die, and they will
receive a million dollars tax free, or if not, nothing will happen and he will
re-program the box and make the offer to someone else. After some soul-
searching and realising they are quite cash-strapped, Norma pushes the
From there, their lives begin to change and unravel in complex, bizarre
and unusual ways. "The Box" has a very simple premise which is clear to
follow. Director Richard Kelly then uses this premise to build a very
bizarre, multi-genre narrative where higher powers (alien or otherwise)
are using humans as test subjects to determine their nature. If humans
fail the test, they face extinction. The main theme of the film is the
morality surrounding murder and its personal connection to us; if we do