Director Richard Kelly has crafted yet another evocative, spectacular, maddening film guaranteed to provoke passionate love-it or hate-it responses. Though far more straightforward than his previous cult favorites, Donnie DarkoSouthland Tales, The Box is crammed just as full of stunning visuals and ambiguous metaphysics. Norma and Arthur Lewis (Cameron Diaz of Charlie’s Angels and James Marsden of X-Men) find a plainly wrapped package on their doorstep one day. Inside is a strange box with a large, red button–and if they press that button, explains a courtly but alarming-looking gentleman (Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon), they will receive a million dollars… and someone they don’t know will die. This is but the starting point for an increasingly creepy tale, featuring eye-popping wallpaper, spontaneous nosebleeds, allusions to Jean-Paul Sartre, overly attentive library patrons, boxes of water, warehouses full of light, and a bell-ringing Santa Claus standing in the middle of a road. Some of it makes sense, some of it doesn’t, but the person who’s going to love this movie won’t care. The Box‘s true power lies in the slow accumulation of dizzying hypnotic images and a tangible sense of unease and anticipation. Kelly aspires to capture the beauty and terror of existence on film; even if he doesn’t succeed–and every viewer will have to decide that for himself or herself–his sheer ambition is remarkable or .

Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 2009
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Run time: 115 minutes
Rating: PG-13

Audio: DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Disc Spec: 1 BD25
Region: A

‘The Box’ is one of those films where a lot of adjectives are necessary. It’s taut and suspenseful, but it’s also metaphysical, ponderous, cerebral, unexplainable, and above all, preposterous. It goes in all different directions, sometimes caught up in circles, sometimes taking detours, sometimes going completely off course. It’s a bizarre, unpredictable story of intrigue and paranoia, continuously twisting and turning, pushing the limits of comprehension with a slew of seemingly unrelated concepts; we begin with a button and a suitcase full of money, but this soon gives way to spiritual quandaries and sinister science fiction subplots, the latter of which involves radio signals from Mars, physical disfigurements, and hordes of mind-controlled drones with bleeding noses. There’s even an ongoing social experiment, which could be indicative of a morality play.

Based on Richard Matheson’s short story “Button, Button” and its 1986 ‘Twilight Zone’ adaptation, ‘The Box’ takes place in Richmond, Virginia in 1976, and I honestly don’t know whether or not that’s a significant plot point. We meet Norma and Arthur Lewis (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden), a cash-strapped suburban couple who awaken one morning to find a plainly wrapped package left at the front door. Inside is a black wooden box topped with an encased red button. Neither one knows what to make of it until receiving a visit from the mysterious Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), who, for as yet unknown reasons, is missing the left side of his face. If the Lewis’ decide to unlock the box and push the button, he explains, two things will happen: They will be given $1 million dollars in cash, and someone they don’t know will die.

Will one of them push the button? It’s not as if they couldn’t use the money. Norma, a literature professor, learned that her school will no longer provide free tuitions for children of the faculty, which doesn’t bode well for her son, Walter (Sam Oz Stone). She also has a severely damaged foot in need of repair. Arthur, a NASA scientist involved in the creation of a Mars camera, is no longer being considered for the astronaut program because he failed the psychological exam. But the fact remains: Their financial security will come at the expense of ending someone else’s life. Norma tries to reason that it may be a death row inmate. Arthur tries to reason that it may be their neighbor or a baby. Heck, it may even be himself or their son. How well does she know either one of them? How well do they know her? This is a film that will keep you thinking till the end.
Movie Content: 8/10

Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/VC-1 with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The way that the film was shot, the image is rather flat looking throughout the entire presentation. In some ways it really helps with the look and feel of the time period pulling you into the atmosphere. he colors don’t pop off the screen as the style used here has a fine soft look. Details are good and it shows with the print.
Video Quality: 9/10

The audio is presented in DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 mix. ‘The Box’ is a dialogue driven comedy with action spread throughout the film. Dialogue is clean through the center channel and well balanced. The soundfield takes advantage of the score and effects. It brings the action to life with a lot of activity from special effects and the soundtrack.
Audio Quality: 9/5

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary with Director Richard Kelly
  • The Box: Grounded in Reality [HD]
  • Richard Matheson: In His Own Words [HD]
  • Visual Effects Revealed [HD]

Special Features: 7/10

Final Thoughts

The ending unfolds in yet another display of twisted logic, and it culminates in a final shot that brings up an entirely new series of questions. What’s the message “The Box”? That damnation can only be avoided by resisting temptation? That humanity must be willing to sacrifice for the greater good in order to survive?
Overall Rating: 8/10