THE BOX (2009) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 13 May 2010

THE BOX (2009)

RATING 0.5/5

ONE word to describe this awfully preposterous thriller: B-O-R-I-N-G. On the surface, though, the premise behind THE BOX looks promising enough: The film takes place in Virginia, 1976 where down-on-their-luck married couple Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) are currently facing some financial crisis. Norma, who is an English teacher, has learned the discount on their son Walter's (Sam Oz Stone) private school tuition is being taken away. In the meantime, Arthur, who works as a technician at Langley Research Center suffers a major blow when he finds out he has failed a critical part of the test required to become an astronaut. With bright future seems highly unlikely, they are about to suffer from worst-case scenario. That is until, one day, Norma receives a mysterious box on their doorstep with a red button inside. Later she is paid a visit by Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), a well-spoken gentleman whose half part of his face is hideously disfigured. Arlington proposes a deal to her: If the red button at the box is pushed within twenty-four hours, both Norma and Arthur will be provided a briefcase filled with one million dollars in cash, tax-free. But there's a catch: Someone else they didn't know in the world will die. And they are not allowed to tell anyone else about the deal. If they do not push the button within the certain time frame, the box will be collected and dropped off at another couple's home. At first, Norma is doubtful about such a strange deal but after consulting with Arthur, they decide to push the button anyway since getting that instant one million dollar cash means they can immediately settle their financial crisis. What follows next, is a series of strange occurrences that both Norma and Arthur are soon finding themselves trapped in a nightmare they can't escape from.

Based on a short story by Richard Matheson's Button, Button which is later adapted for an episode of Twilight Zone, there's no doubt a premise like this is irresistible. Unfortunately writer-director Richard Kelly fails to sustain the viewer's interest beyond its core premise. Running at two-hour length, it's pity to see this film is painfully sluggish and heavily convoluted. Kelly doesn't seem to know what to do with his film, other than throwing everything he can think of -- a mix of sci-fi, horror and paranoid thriller -- that all the mashed-up genre turns up sillier and awfully messy by the minute. Don't even bother expecting this kind of film to be making sense anyway -- nosebleed epidemics, watery portals, otherworldly NASA experiments, randomly weird individuals with weird behaviors -- these ideas are all there filling up the blanks without any satisfying reason.

The cast, in the meantime, is a grave disappointment: Cameron Diaz and James Marsden doesn't make convincing couples anyway, especially given the fact Marsden's obviously baby-faced look making them more suitable as brother-and-sister instead. It's a shame that last year's Oscar nominee Frank Langella is wasted here as the mysterious Arlington Steward.

If anything worth praising about this messy slog, the film remains gorgeous to look at: Steven Poster's picturesque cinematography and Alexander Hammond's groovy production design, coupled with Arcade Fire's perfectly '70s retro score, is simply arresting.

Shame about the rest though: THE BOX is one draggy waste of epic proportion that no doubt it's among the worst film ever seen this year.

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