The Box Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated November 6th, 2009 at 10:33 pm,

Short Version: Do yourself a favor and find the original 30 minute Twilight Zone episode of The Box and watch that instead.

the box review The Box Review
Screen Rant reviews The Box

Well this is going to be a short review because I don’t want to spend any more time on this movie than I have to. The Box is based on Button, Button – a very short story written by Richard Matheson that was used for an old episode of the classic TV series The Twilight Zone. It was written and directed by Richard Kelly, the man behind the cult classic Donnie Darko and the poorly received Southland Tales.

BTW, personally I think it’s obvious, but this review does tell you whether or not they push the button.

The film takes place in 1976, around the time we started sending probes to Mars. This is the (very thin) reason the film takes place back then – it could have easily taken place today, but then the pacing of the film might not have made as much sense (I’ll get to that later). Cameron Diaz and James Marsden star as a mid-30s couple living in Virginia. He works at Nasa as an optical engineer but has aspirations to be a space shuttle astronaut, she works as a teacher at a private school at which their son attends. They’re living paycheck to paycheck and money is tight (and despite seeming to be a bright guy, mid-30s Marsden is driving a Corvette despite their financial status).

They receive a package wrapped in plain brown paper early one morning: A black box with a glass dome covering a red button. Very simple, but well-crafted. It is locked, and later that day the mysterious Arlington Steward (the ever sophisticated Frank Langella) arrives with a key to the box, a briefcase with one million dollars and half his face CGI’d away and scarred in a terrible burn injury. He makes the offer: Press the button and somewhere, someone you do not know will die, but you will then receive one million dollars tax free.

Decisions, decisions.

Well a couple of things have coincidentally (or, not so much)  just happened to cause the financial noose to tighten a bit more, making the deal tempting them (to the wife in particular). They vacillate between calling the police (telling anyone and the deal will be off), just returning the box, and assuming that even if the guy IS crazy, maybe they can get the money. After all, the person killed “might be some murderer on death row.”

Frankly, maybe it’s just me (and I really hope it’s NOT), but the movie lost me here. If someone showed up at your door and made this offer, with the guarantee that SOMEONE WOULD DIE if you pushed the button, would you? I sure as hell wouldn’t, even for a million dollars.

The husband does decide to open the box, not knowing what to find, but it’s just empty – not even a transmitter to notify anyone if the button had been pushed. Still, he is leery. In the end, the wife pushes the button, Steward arrives with the money, and assures them that the box will be given to someone they do not know.

Didn’t see THAT one coming.

Of course writer/director Richard Kelly realizes this, and in order to keep the movie *cough* interesting *cough* puts in a ton of oddities that could’ve drawn you in with the mystery, but instead just get annoying as they continue to pile on top of each other. In the end what made for a great, short morality tale is made so convoluted by trying to stretch it out into a two hour movie and give explanation to the hows and the whys that you’ll be dying to be done with the movie and get out of the theater.

I found it interesting that it was set in the 70s because the pacing of the film reminded me of movies from that time period. Looking back, a lot of the movies made then seem agonizingly slow in moving the story along, and that’s the case here. In the last 30 minutes or so it feels so completely disjointed, jumping helter-skelter from scene to scene that you’ll wonder what the editor and director were thinking.

I’ll give it two stars for concept and Frank Langella, but that’s being generous – I wouldn’t even call this a rental.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. I was so excited about this film because it hadnt been widely advertised and seemed intresting, i love films that have twists while keeping me completly entertained.

    Complete, utter dissapointment and shock. Pointless dribble:(
    The film is sooo bad a friend of mine left the cinema telling people not to watch it. There was only about 8 people watching it and as soon as the credits started rolling they got straight out their seats, you could feel the ‘i cant believe i spent £8 on this. If you want to go and see for yourself i think you definatly should, then i wont be the only person who wasted my time :)

    I was embarassed that i chose it haha

  2. [quote]I see where you’re coming from but I think it’s absolutely necessary to word your opinions in a way that takes other people’s views into consideration if you’re expressing your opinion on a public forum. That’s just me.[/end quote]

    @ogb – Seriously, what you just said makes no sense and suggests you’re a doormat. A person’s opinion is exactly that, THEIR opinion. Not yours, not mine, not the President’s. So what if someone voices their displeasure in a way you don’t like? No one used any profanity so what’s the problem? They simply didn’t like it. If we all take everyone else’s views into consideration, we’d all be sugarcoating our views, which is ridiculous. Just as you have a right to voice your like for the movie, so do others have a right to voice their displeasure. And btw, give people a little more credit. If they want to see the movie, they’ll see it. It’s only those who can’t think for themselves will back out at a few negative reviews.

  3. Filmbuff

    A little late to the party, aren’t we? Anyway, what I said does make sense. Reread it and realize that I do not bag on people’s opinions, I’m asking ppl to be a little more responsible in how they voice it. There’s sugarcoating and then there’s the opposite of sugarcoating, which is saying stuff like “DON”T SEE THIS MOVIE”, “PIECE OF CRAP”, “WASTE OF TIME”, etc. I’m asking for balance and an intelligent discussion. That’s all I’ve been saying.

  4. I think when people say things such as “waste of time” or don’t go see this movie”, I think what they are really saying is, this is how I feel about the movie. Yes they say (write) it, but people talk ( or write ) out of context, and you have to read-between-the-lines, to extract what they really mean.

    I didn’t hate this movie, but I would tell people, I don’t think it is worth taking the time to see it. What I would say, is, “wait to rent it”. This way they will not be denied the experience of watching if for themselves.

    People are harsh in their views of some things. And based on the “views” this movie has gotten, and the box office results, speaks for itself, regardless of the level of comments being made.

    The truth is, that for most people, this movie is not so much complex as it is, simply: badly done.
    For those who didn’t see the Twilight Zone version or read the short-story version of “the button”, this could have fallen away so much more from the story line to be made into a good movie. Even the acting was bad. When the actors cannot fall into their roles, you know it’s gonna be a long 2 hours in the theater.

  5. Ron

    THAT’S the kind of criticism that I like. You explained yourself very well. I just get tired of one line reviews that just slam the movie and the movie maker (“This movie sucks!”). And I’m the same way telling my friends which movie I think is worth it. I do feel it’s a little strange telling a complete stranger that a movie is a waste of time. For all we know, they will love this movie.

  6. ogb,
    I think I can agree with much of what you have written as well. Simply, an “I didn’t like it but judge for yourself” certainly says it all!
    But we do live in a world of negativity!
    Take care..

  7. Very true Ron. Negativity does rule and gets the most attention. Fine by me as long as at the end of the day ppl come to their senses.

  8. ogb,
    Whatever you do, do NOT push the button!
    Take care!

  9. So… I have a question. At the end of the movie when they take the cuffs off of James Marsden and he gets in to the government car where are they taking him? I couldn’t get weather he was being arrested or if he was being recruited as an employee of Steward. Any ideas?

  10. To Jim:
    Well I believe he is not arrested at all. But the crew of steward will take care of him and his son. Because his wife showed true empathy and true love towards Steward. It was clear he was deeply moved by that. But she had to die, because of the deal. So as a token of gratitude and appreciation her family will be taken care of.

    • To Jim & Yahia — Interesting question. I actually was wondering if James Marsden’s character will end up being killed like the other father who was in the same position???

      Bizarre movie is all I can say. I loved the concept of The Box – great discussion starter. Didn’t care for the sci-fi direction it went beyond that. I think it could have been better written as a murder mystery type movie, where it all ends eventually with the killer getting caught (leaving a cliffhanger for sequels). The victims could show ways we are all connected to people we don’t actually know (yet). (Taking a page out of Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet In Heaven) — Just a thought???

  11. Very interesting view:)))I like the fact that you look at the details.
    I think that movie was good and I like it.

  12. The movie was good, it gets better evertime watch it.

  13. It's not really a spoiler that the button was hit. That's not the main part of the story, the main part is that the test is not over when you hit the button. Your morality as a person is still being tested. Hitting the button is just the first step. If the movie loses you there, watch the movie again. It's really a lot deeper than that.

  14. It was one of the 10 ten worst movies of all time. I still have no idea of what the story was supposed to be about. I want that two hours of my life back please.

  15. I just saw this movie and I honestly wouldn't have been surprised had they piled in Stewey from The Family Guy singing the “Peanut Butter Jelly” song…

    This movie phailed so hard. The most entertaining part of it was my friend throwing a sock at me.

  16. This movie made no sense. It sucked. =/

    • stupid people hate this movie.

      intelligent people love it.

      • I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person, and I thought this movie was a failure from beginning to end. Unimpressive acting, disjointed storytelling, uninspired editing, and, in the end, an entirely unexplained driving force behind the plot put this movie in my top ten worst.

        The Box is hated by stupid and intelligent people alike because, frankly, it’s a waste of time.

        • No, you’re stupid.

          • Clearly, Melissa is intelligent.

  17. I liked the begining of the movie, but then it lost me, i had no idea why peoples nose’s were bleeding, and alot of other stuff, and just a point ill like to make –> why do we only see women pushing the button ? is there some hidden meaning behind that..i dont know….i had to force myself to watch the last half,confusion and all….a bad movie.

    • Just think back to Adam and Eve. What did Eve do? Nobody is going to drop it. Woman are still going to get blamed for everything.

    • This movie falls well short of the title of masterpiece. Donnie Darko is an intelligent, multi-layered story that explores the essence of time and the purpose of individual human life.

      The Box, on the other hand, has at its core a story that is neither well-thought out nor complete in its explanation of what it attempts to explore. The back story is only sketchily explained, leaving gaping logical holes, and it does little to explain the events that occur with the main characters.

      The nose bleeds are caused by the frontal lobe hemorhages that occur when the “employees” are being mind-controlled. Why these people are subject to this mind control, or how they come to be under the control, or even who is controlling them – these are questions which the movie does not answer.

      • miss sara you had by far the most intelligent response to this movie and this post was the only thing i could find online to help me rest assured that i could fall asleep unsatisfied, confused, and tempted to question my own judgement on my movie rental selection for the rest of my life, perhaps leading to chronic depression. haha but in all seriousness thanks for the input

    • No look this is the real expanation of the movie. Arlington got hit by lightning and died and some type of thing(alien life form or something) is testing random humans. They are seeing if humans are able to put aside individual desires make choices to help the greater good. And if humans are not then like Arlington said his employers will expedite the process of making them extinct. Or in other words kill all the humans. And he also said if enough people make the right choice by not pressing button then they will cease testing humanity. And the zombie people aren’t all the people in the picture. I think that all the people who fail the test and are still alive like the father will work for Arlington. And when they work for him they have to walk into the water thing and after they walk into that they get an objective and are kind of being controlled until they are finished. And while they are being controlled they have nosebleeds. It shows this when all those people are in a building with Arlington waiting in line with those guys with guns. Well i hope i helped.

      • Arlington isn’t testing random humans. He is testing married couples under age 35 with one child. Did you notice that the movie never has the husband push the button? Seems to parallel Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

  18. The biggest waste of time ever, possibly the worst film in the world. boring, and pointless, the first 20 mins are average, from then it goes downhill rapidly and you will realise that its such a waste of time. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME. i’d rather go to a funeral than watch the film again.

  19. Just watched the movie…
    My brother is playing back some parts…

    I have looked up many explanations on the movie, and am still VERY confused. I REALLY was that 1hr and 53min back of my life. I understood it, but found it completely stupid.
    And I totally disagree with how someone said “stupid people hate it, intelligent people love it” Yes, you have freedom of speech, no problem with that, but I am smart and HATED it.

  20. I’m well aware that I’m falling in a minority here, but I thought the movie was quite good. It posed a very real moral dillema with distant consequences and followed it thru to show the value of a human life. I can understand the complaints in the storytelling, but it didn’t bother me as much as others I guess. It did make me stop and think about all those people “I don’t know” and potentially how little I value thier lives. I don’t send money to starving children in 3rd world nations or work in a soup kitchen, so in a way I push the button everyday. I can genuinly understand how people could go into this movie not expecting the type of narrative they ended up getting, but putting that aside I did find the message profound.

    On a note about the coherence of the plot. All of the answers are given and it does make sense. I think many people thought it was just absurd once it got rolling and then turned themselves off to trying to piece it together. I think for others they went into movie they never wanted to see in the first place but were duped by advertising that promised a Hollywood thriller and gave us a sci-fi interpritive piece on moralty. And of course a third group of people who just genuinly got nothing from it. I respect that, but I do think the the voices of the two former groups tip the balance to make up the majority that dislike this movie. I know if I saw a movie advertised as a deep psychological thriller and then got a rom-com once I got to the theatre I would indeed be angry. Just so happened I’m someone who was surprised in good way by what I got due to my own personal tastes

    • if it all makes sense, explain the purpose of the scene where a former victim of this experiment mentions a “brain parasite” im pretty sure not even the director knows what the hell he meant here. i apologize for improper syntax, but i do not feel this movie is even worth checking my grammer.

  21. The movie is certainly no Oscar winner – it all got a little fruity in the second of the movie and it seemed like the director was going all out to painfully stretch the movie out for as long as possible. So, as much as I agree with the negative comments, I find Xunjez’s point quite interesting. There are constantly people dying from starvation in African nations, but yet us “well-fed” folks allow it to happen. It is indirectly (or directly?) like pushing the button. A scary thought. I thought that the moral theme of the film is that greed has the potential of wiping out man-kind. A profound theme, indeed. Just a shame the director didn’t execute it better. The ending was a bizarre smorgasboard of unrelated scenes- first the husband walks out of the NASA building surrounded by gunmen, then the scene jumps to him being in his house with his wife. It seemed like a desperate effort to conclude the film. Many shaky moments, but an interesting moral to the story.

  22. This movie simply states that humans are not altruistic. altruims meaning sacrifice happens in all other species except humans. For example, bats will give up their food/blood to another bat if that bat hasnt found food. it happens in the animal kingdom, but humans for some reason are not like that. look at famine and then look at your self. wtf are you doing to help these impoverished people. another point of the movie was deformity. the mother said he loved the guy that was burned cuz she could relate to his deformityy but yet she couldnt accept her own son that had a deformity. i have a high iq also.

  23. Well, my husband and I actually just sat and watched this movie. I loved the plot of the movie, decisions and the consequences there of. I feel as though we push “the button” everyday of our lives, choosing to smoke in front of others, using profanity in front of others, not being willing to assist those in need of help, NOT HAVING ANY MORALS!!! I get the movie, I got it from the start. The movie has a sort of religious concept.

    I would not tell anyone to not see this movie, I actually am going to encourage it because it made me really think about the example that I am setting as a result of my choices in life. I am a very intelligent and analytical woman, so I trust that others can form their own decisions. If something peaks your interest, this movie for example, you either choose to watch it or not. Well, one thing that we all have in common is that we did make the decision to watch this movie; the controversy again, parallels with the plot and your intelligence beyond existing and take things for face value surface. PLEASE LIVE DEEPER THAN YOUR BREATHS GUYS; AS LIFE IS PURPOSED!!!

    • @ Bells: “it made me really think about the example that I am setting as a result of my choices in life”

      Excellent perspective. I suppose I can take that from this movie. A way as being reflective of the choices I make, their potential consequences, and mostly my true motivation for the choices – Greed is truly the root of all evil.

  24. A few questions:

    1. Who was the man holding Walter’s shoulders in the window at the end??
    2. What did her foot have to do with anything?
    3. Why was the kid from school/waiter involved?
    4. Why did he cause all his employees to hemorrhage?

    • Don’t know if these are right, but here is my take:

      1. Who was the man holding Walter’s shoulders in the window at the end??
      One of Steward’s men, who was going to take off the boy as a new employee for Steward.

      2. What did her foot have to do with anything?
      Gave an excuse for that whole scene for when Norma Lewis tells Steward that when she first saw his face she felt love for him, and new that she could never feel sorry for herself again.

      3. Why was the kid from school/waiter involved?
      Each family was a young couple under age 35 with a single child, I beleive that after each of the families failed the box experiment, that their children became employees of Steward…the kid from school, Dana/Sarah the baby sitter, the other waiter that gave the peace sign as the Lewis’ car pulled out.

      4. Why did he cause all his employees to hemorrhage?
      Steward was controlling all of his employees through some type of frontal lobe mental connection, that was how he could get them all to move as a unit in the library. The problem was that it causes nose bleeds, I think someone references him trying to figure out how to stop the nose bleeds.

      I am probably way off, but either way, I’ll not lose any sleep over it. The editing could have been better, but I enjoyed it.

      • the waiter/student was in the movie because when he gave the peace sign it was symbolizing #2 so when james marsden( the main guy)) had to pick an entrace way of water when he landed on the bed full of water in his house.. he chose 2. because he remembered the waiters peace sign or “2”