The Box Review

After a box is dropped off in the Lewis home, The Box begins what are supposed to be tense conversations about pushing a button. Doing so will net the Lewis family $1 million, but kill a random person in the world.

The problem here is that everyone knows the button is pushed. Without pressing it, there is no movie. This gives the script, based on a short story by Richard Matheson, a chance to develop character. It doesn’t.

Norma (Cameron Diaz), with a canned southern accent, is hesitant. Who wouldn’t be? Arthur (James Marsden) is indifferent, believing the entire thing is a hoax. Who wouldn’t? If this set up is trying to establish the couple as average, despite Arthur being an intelligent NASA scientist, then it must work.

If The Box loses you here, and this comprises the entire first act, what is to come will completely throw you. What the box is, where it came from, who the mystery man is that brought it (Frank Langella with some distracting digital make-up), and whether or not anyone dies because of it are all answered.

That places The Box in that difficult position in which discussion leads to spoilers, and even minute spoilers ruin the film. Needless to say, the trailers completely avoid the fantastical elements of the plot, pieces that pull the viewer into space, the metaphysical, Mars, heaven, hell, and a library where portals are suddenly available.

The Box introduces an enormous level of concepts, ideas, and intrigue. Whether or not they are all answered is debatable. Whether the ones that are clearly answered are satisfactory, well, that also remains up for debate. As The Box continues to pile on complexity, logic is opened up to allow for almost anything. The Box does not have many rules, yet the build-up to the eventual reveals are eerie because anything seems possible.

This film could go any direction, but whether or not you are along for the ride, or buy its message, depends fully on these characters. Since they are entirely average, the expected emotional pull is lax, and The Box lacks that satisfying punch in the end.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

Director Richard Kelly shot The Box digitally, utilizing the Panavision Genesis. Warner’s VC-1 encode immediately appears digital, with flat faces, minimal depth, and weak blacks. The contrast is fine, lights typically delivering an intentional bloom effect.

Colors are natural although subdued, leading to generally pale flesh tones. Aliasing is a struggle throughout, from the minor instances such as the hood of a model car at 26:51, to the distracting, such as the ceiling lights at 1:12:13. In-focus environmental detail can exhibit excellent definition, especially around the Lewis home and the early long shots of the NASA work floor.

Facial textures are a rare occurrence, the best instance inside a car on James Marsden at 55-minutes. It is a far too uncommon moment for this VC-1 effort. Some of the establishing city shots can appear impressive, despite the digital sheen. There are no digital anomalies to note as the presentation is free of noise and ringing.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

The Box opens with a nifty piece of sound design. As words are typed on the screen, the click of typewriter keys accurately and distinctly move left to right in the front channels. The effect is convincing enough to be a small surprise, as most movies would contain that to the center.

Mild ambiance is generally this DTS-HD effort’s mantra. Outdoors, birds chirp and dogs bark in the surrounds. School bells ring in all channels, creating an echo effect. A wedding rehearsal and the eventual wedding deliver the expected immersive and enveloping chatter.

Highlights include a walk down a motel hallway, where doors open and a TV broadcast swivels around through the sound field. When one of the characters pops from some water (it makes sense in the movie), the bass and surround effect are superb. There is no real action to speak of, generally keeping the non-intrusive, clean score as the sole audio highlight.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Warner’s rental exclusive policy and lack of a review copy again hamper the review process. Since this is based on a rental copy, no extras are included. When a retail version is obtained, this section will be updated.

Extras ☆☆☆☆☆ 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

  • This movie is what I like to call a run away train wreck. It took an original story that stood well on it's own, grafted five “Return of the King”-style endings on to extend it out to feature length and then made a completely unreasonable metaphoric message. One of the few occasions in cinematic history where I've wanted to walk out of the theater and demand my money back.

  • gamereviewgod

    I knew nothing about the original story going in, so I guess I had the benefit of going in blind, beyond knowing they would push the button. It did engage me enough to keep me going, and I was curious to see where it was going. Richard Kelly's previous work is all oddball stuff, so that was expected.

    At the least, it was unique and original. Not many studios would have the balls to put something like this out, although the marketing made it seem like they were thought twice about their decision. I can certainly applaud that despite my issues with it. I was intrigued, but not satisfied. There's no way I could have walked out without knowing how it all ended. It had me on that level.

  • I didn't read the story or watch the 86 Twilight Zone episode until after i saw the film. Namely because i wanted to see if it was that bad. The big problem i have is you're confusing originality with quality. It's got a few neat ideas, yes, but they're poorly executed and poorly strung together. Hell the box itself doesn't even matter after the first 30 minutes.

    What really pisses me off about this film is how they could have made it this great moral drama about pushing or not pushing. You could analyze the human though process or look at morality vs. survival vs. comfort. But no we throw that out the window when the button is pushed and the rest of the movie is just this badly tacked on attempt to continue the plot. What's worse, instead of leaving the movie with an open ending where you can draw your own conclusions about the choices made they straight up tell you they were the wrong choices and if you ever think of money being worth more than human life, we'll kill you. A statement that is completely contradictory in it's own right.

    I love Donnie Darko, but Kelly just didn't know when to quit. It's called The Box. Focus on the god damn BOX.

  • gamereviewgod

    No, I'm confusing quality/originality, I just cut it a little slack for the concept and where it went.

    You just can't have a movie about a moral discussion concerning the pushing of a button. It wouldn't be any different if it was just a plain box and they were told to open it. The audience has to see what is in the box unless there is something else interesting going on (see: Pulp Fiction's suitcase). If they just push it and we don't see the consequences, who cares? We never know if its real, where it came from, who dies, who lives, etc.

    They need to push that button, and everything is leading to the end where yes, the box plays a critical role. Without spoiling too much, the entire movie is leading to the box, and the choices someone makes with it.

    And of course killing people for money in a civilian setting is wrong. It's greed, selfishness, and a total lack of compassion for human life. You wanted a movie that would tell you otherwise? That is the message of course, that human greed causes unthinkable acts for the sake of a dollar.

  • gamereviewgod

    No, I'm not confusing quality/originality, I just cut it a little slack for the concept and where it went.

    You just can't have a movie about a moral discussion concerning the pushing of a button. It wouldn't be any different if it was just a plain box and they were told to open it. The audience has to see what is in the box unless there is something else interesting going on (see: Pulp Fiction's suitcase). If they just push it and we don't see the consequences, who cares? We never know if its real, where it came from, who dies, who lives, etc.

    They need to push that button, and everything is leading to the end where yes, the box plays a critical role. Without spoiling too much, the entire movie is leading to the box, and the choices someone makes with it.

    And of course killing people for money in a civilian setting is wrong. It's greed, selfishness, and a total lack of compassion for human life. You wanted a movie that would tell you otherwise? That is the message of course, that human greed causes unthinkable acts for the sake of a dollar.

  • Consider please the following scenario:

    Your child is dying and requires money to pay for a critical operation. This is your only real option. Is it really greed and immorality at that point to push the button? Who's to say? Nothing is just black and white. It's from that shade of gray they could have created a masterpiece. But they didn't.

  • gamereviewgod

    The decision is clear. You don't kill anyone, because morally you have the made the choice of who lives and who dies. You are making a selfish choice for your own kin, and not considering others. It would be no different if I needed say, a kidney, and you were a match. Is it morally right to kill you for your kidney?

  • gamereviewgod

    The decision is clear. You don't kill anyone, because morally you have the made the choice of who lives and who dies. You are making a selfish choice for your own kin, and not considering others. It would be no different if I needed say, a kidney, and you were a match. Is it morally right to kill you for your kidney?

  • Pingback: The Hole (2009) Review | DoBlu.com()