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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
James Marsden
Cameron Diaz
Frank Langella
James Rebhorn.
Directors
Richard Kelly.
Screenwriters
Richard Kelly.
Running Time
115 minutes

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The Box
Richard Kelly pushes the button


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Plot
When a mysterious stranger deposits a box at the door of married couple Arthur (James Marsden) and Norma (Cameron Diaz), they are presented with a stark choice. Do they press the button and receive $1 million, in the knowledge that doing so, someone, somewhere will die?


Review
The Box
Well, what would you do? That’s the question that will sit with you long after Richard Kelly’s sci-fi/horror/morality play has faded out. Like Adrian Lyne’s Indecent Proposal 16 years before it, his high-concept quandary asks both its protagonists and its audience a million-dollar zinger. Unlike its predecessor, here it’s not just OAP ugly-bumping that’s at stake. This time, taking the money comes at a much higher price...

It should have been the stuff of dinner-party discussion the world over; a movie that intrigued across genders and generations. Not least given its credentials: based on a short story by sci-fi icon Richard Matheson (I Am Legend); already adapted into one of The Twilight Zone’s more famous episodes; and starring the highest-paid actress working today. It should, frankly, have made a hell of a lot more than its crumby $7.6 million opening weekend in the US.

That it did may not exactly be the greatest news for Kelly — where now, Richard? — but at least he can’t be accused of selling out. On paper, it all looked very straight and smart: big star, big studio, big success. Instead, he takes that box office-friendly set-up and, well, indies it all over the place. Nose-bleeding zombies, Sartre-spouting mystery men with half their faces missing, her off of There’s Something About Mary with half her foot missing, NASA conspiracy theories, 2001-styled Star Gate montages, endless existential noodling, a spot of time travel and a suicidal Santa... It’s so stripped of mainstream logic that the first screening to the Paramount brass must have made for an interesting day. And it so wilfully, wonderfully disregards narrative convention that Donnie Darko fans will have a ball.

Of course, such was the fallout from Southland Tales — Kelly’s savaged sophomore farrago — that Darko already feels a mighty long time ago. But that movie’s faithful will feel right at home from the get-go. The Box, like Darko, once again sees Kelly pit an all-American family against paranormal forces. And this time it’s personal, with Diaz and Marsden based in part on Kelly’s parents and the movie set in his childhood backyard of Virginia, circa 1976.

The setting gives Kelly the chance to play with many of the stylistic licks of that era, his sound design, Arcade Fire’s retro soundtrack, and cinematography (he shot on digital, having been convinced the medium could fit a period setting when he saw David Fincher’s Zodiac) establishing a paranoid, foreboding tone that riffs on the likes of Rosemary’s Baby and Kubrick — The Shining and 2001 the most obvious influences. But although the personalising of his story draws out some great performances — particularly from Diaz — it also strips the situation of much of the empathy needed for it to truly work. Diaz and Marsden here are a teacher and a Langley scientist respectively, struggling to pay their son’s private school fees when his application to become an astronaut is rejected. Hardly on the breadline, are they? Are we really supposed to empathise with their decision to sacrifice a human life, anonymous or not, for the sake of a fancy education?

In Frank Langella’s Arlington Steward, though, Kelly has crafted a brilliant bad guy. Sporting some terrific CG work that sheers off an entire cheek, he’s a captivating combination of Two-Face and Jigsaw, an unhinged loon, all the more scary for his conviction that morals are on his side. Any more would spoil it, but it’s safe to say that once his button is pushed, he’s a memorably scary creation.

Certainly, The Box will befuddle, confound and frustrate, its refusal to stick to a single tone, or even genre, maddening if you’re not prepared to fly with it. But here’s the real question: given Kelly’s startling box office wobble since the highs of Darko, will he feel forced to play things more commercial in the immediate future? Will this, then, be the last pure Kelly movie we see in a while? It’s a very real worry. The question is: is missing it on a big screen a choice you’re prepared to make?


Verdict
Movie Marmite. Many will be perplexed. Donnie Darko fans should lap it up.


Reviewed by Mark Dinning

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Box
Empire Star Rating

Worst film ever made?...

The sort of person that would rate a film like this highly, ie. Empire Magazine, is probably the sort of person that would also rate films like King Kong (2005) or Transformers (2007) highly... *cough*. But if like me you correctly recognise those films as utter toilet matter then perhaps pay closer attention to this review... This is truly, just about as bad as it gets. Utter nonsense. Completely delusional, and badly judged both in conception and delivery. It tries incredibly hard to b... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by PGowdy at 13:58, 26 May 2011 | Report This Post


simply

ignore these posts and form your own decision. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by vdjfrancis at 22:32, 04 December 2010 | Report This Post


A cult classic that you will either love or hate!

As a fan of Donnie Darko I was looking forward to seeing this. After missing it on the cinema I took the gamble and bought it on blu-ray and I'm pleased to say I wasn't dissapointed. Marsden and Diaz were both great in their roles as a happily married couple and Frank Langella was suitably creepy as the mysterious Arlington Stewart. The sci-fi twist won't be to everyones taste but I thought it was pretty good. I would say it reminded me of the Twilight Zone with a hint of David Lynch. Definately... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dannyfletch at 12:40, 27 July 2010 | Report This Post


A cult classic that you will either love or hate!

As a fan of Donnie Darko I was looking forward to seeing this. After missing it on the cinema I took the gamble and bought it on blu-ray and I'm pleased to say I wasn't dissapointed. Marsden and Diaz were both great in their roles as a happily married couple and Frank Langella was suitably creepy as the mysterious Arlington Stewart. The sci-fi twist won't be to everyones taste but I thought it was pretty good. I would say it reminded me of the Twilight Zone with a hint of David Lynch. Definately... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dannyfletch at 12:40, 27 July 2010 | Report This Post


UNDECIDED........

Watched this last night 'cos we both fancied it despite negative reviews and I'm not sure now what I think of it. I enjoyed it solidly and was properly drawn in until Marsdens library choice and then I knew where it was going and I kind of hoped it wasn't because it gave the film a feeling of being tacked on, yet at the same time it offers an explanation for the red planet. As it all ended I was, oh right then thats it...... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by boostergold at 08:39, 12 July 2010 | Report This Post


Half a film

In going beyond the original story, Kelly has managed to give us only half a film. Presumably the original tale works fine as there is not even a hint of explanation. Kelly, in fleshing out the explanation, has failed to finish the job off. I loved the paranoid tension and even the ending provided some closure for Diaz's and Marsden's story, but this was all overshadowed by leaving Langella high and dry and crying out for an explanation. And I suppose if anyone is daft enough to give Kelly s... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by madkingsoup at 18:46, 07 July 2010 | Report This Post


Like a packet of Revels

This was a really good film until I got one of those horrible coffee sweet moments. I really loved the first half of the movie, the tension building slowly, all lovely like the chewy caramel & chocolate revels, and then flood in the coffee sweet moments. such a mixed bag of moments, it was like watching a montage of half the movies in my dvd collection. going from general chiller, to sci fi, slight horror nods, and, then back again. I think the 3 stars is enough for this film, if, like other... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Sparkykelly69 at 13:06, 02 July 2010 | Report This Post


Richard Kelly

I love this director!! Richard Kelly talks first day of principal photography, the rush of filmmaking, and his favorite director moment! http://bit.ly/dht0kC ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by musicmam10 at 23:22, 21 June 2010 | Report This Post


Bizarre but cool

Good wee film, a bit weird but worth checking out. Diaz, Marsden and Langella especially give good performances and Richard Kelly does a great job of adapting Richard Matheson's short story. A possible future cult classic. Nowhere near as bad as some have said! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Big Braveheart at 01:57, 20 June 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Box

well I am swimming against the tide of popular opinion I really liked "The box" I am a big fan of Richard Kelly's work and thoroughly enjoyed both "Donnie Darko" and "Southland Tales" (an incredibly messy film that really opens up on further viewings) the introduction of the Alien theme in The Box really surprised me, and added another layer of depth in fact I thought it was so good, I went out and bought "The Box" on Blu-Ray the day after renting it on SD DVD 4/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hampstead bandit at 18:17, 26 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Box

Damn, this was so awful! I thought I would like it at least a bit (given Empire's review) but did not realise it was ] bad. Whatever happens, dont touch 3/10 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by robwillphill at 13:42, 25 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Box

The Box is a strange one, it's like a bad film and a good film all rolled up into one weird weird creation! It's amazing in that it works really well even with its unintentionally funny bits as a kind of full length Twilight Zone episode. I for one enjoyed the film and found it really original and...mad, in a good way. It's like a David Lynch film with a completely different pace and tone...weird. But yeah I think The Box deserves its 4 stars for daring to be out-there and succeeding... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Edward Nygma at 01:59, 25 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: The Box

Its by no means a masterpiece, and maybe giving it four stars is a bit generous, but I certainly think this was a better film than Southland Tales, although like Southland it tries to cram in too many ideas. Its nowhere near as bad as some of the reviews on here, maybe the fact that it doesn't build up to some awe inspiring crowd pleasing finale doesn't do it any favours. ... More

Posted by Indio at 23:28, 24 April 2010 | Report This Post


shocking!

this possibly the worst film out 2rent at this time ever! It is just painfull 2watch i did not enjoy at all. Acting woz ok but accents r so so terriable. I urge every1 not 2rent or buy this. Save ur money. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by brutalbrickell at 00:09, 17 April 2010 | Report This Post


shocking!

this possibly the worst film out 2rent at this time ever! It is just painfull 2watch i did not enjoy at all. Acting woz ok but accents r so so terriable. I urge every1 not 2rent or buy this. Save ur money. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by brutalbrickell at 00:06, 17 April 2010 | Report This Post


Confusing but powerful film

Those of you familiar with Richard Kelly's work will know what to expect: unexplainingly complex plot mixed with thought-provoking premise. The Box offers just that, and I am here to tell you now that you are not meant to fully understand the film. Most of it, yes, but not all. But The Box is an ultimately very rewarding experience as it is probably the most psychological experience of the past few years. It will seriously get you thinking. Moreover, Diaz, Marsden and especially Langella delive... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djphilips at 22:15, 11 April 2010 | Report This Post


Chilling But I Hated The Ending.

The Box was a chilling, edge of your seat film directed by the man who bought Donnie Darko to life. Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella bring excellent pefomances to grab the viewer's attention. It's a terrifying ride especially with the nose bleeding zombies. But the most annoying thing about this is the ending. I found it offensive and it angered me, I won't say what happens and I'm sure it's only me that felt that way but it ruined the whole film to me. So apart from that, The Box ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 11:41, 06 April 2010 | Report This Post


Chilling But I Hated The Ending.

The Box was a chilling, edge of your seat film directed by the man who bought Donnie Darko to life. Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella bring excellent pefomances to grab the viewer's attention. It's a terrifying ride especially with the nose bleeding zombies. But the most annoying thing about this is the ending. I found it offensive and it angered me, I won't say what happens and I'm sure it's only me that felt that way but it ruined the whole film to me. So apart from that, The Box ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 11:41, 06 April 2010 | Report This Post


simple and naive...without Cameron and this worthy atmosphere this would be a bad bad film.... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by teo at 09:20, 03 April 2010 | Report This Post


simple and naive...without Cameron and this worthy atmosphere this would be a bad bad film.... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by teo at 09:20, 03 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: my kind of movie !

Kelly cooked up a devilishly delicious dinner with Darkohat in the custard with nd Taleswith filled the apple pie with pencils, and that’s just stupid. Marks for originality I suppose, and I look forward to the next serving, but I’ll be taking a packet of biscuits with me just in case. In retrospect that was an ill-advised extended metaphor, but I’ve written it now and I can’t just delete it can I? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by David Somerset at 09:56, 18 January 2010 | Report This Post


my kind of movie !

i liked this film a lot and will definitely be seeing it again soon. it was genuinely creepy in places in the first half of the film. my only dissapointment was it didn't pan out to be the film i thought it was gonna be, lacking the rich depth of lynch. i thought it could've been longer and weirder ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jerkyjudas at 00:30, 10 January 2010 | Report This Post


my kind of movie !

i liked this film a lot and will definitely be seeing it again soon. it was genuinely creepy in places in the first half of the film. my only dissapointment was it didn't pan out to be the film i thought it was gonna be, lacking the rich depth of lynch. i thought it could've been longer and weirder ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jerkyjudas at 00:30, 10 January 2010 | Report This Post


Bizarre and often thrilling. No Donnie Darko, but it is a great effort. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 04:10, 07 January 2010 | Report This Post


disapointing

It's important to state that this is no Donnie Darko, yet Kelly delivers an intense dark thriller about the consequences of our actions. Paranoia brews at every turn as things are n't what they seem. This is film that plays with you throughout throwing wonderfully wierd concepts, images and scenes that involve a student provoking Diaz to take off her shoes, lots of people getting nose bleeds, and a zombie-like Father Christmas. For a film that is based on a short story and Twilight Zone episo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gzus at 21:59, 28 December 2009 | Report This Post


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