Norma and Arthur Lewis, a suburban couple with a young child, receive a simple wooden box as a gift, which bears fatal and irrevocable consequences. A mysterious stranger, delivers the message that the box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button. But, pressing this button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world; someone they don’t know. With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the cross-hairs of a startling moral dilemma and must face the true nature of their humanity.
Imagine if you will, a strange man comes to your the day after receiving a wooden box left on your doorstep. The box is simple. It contains a button covered by a glass case that the man brings to you. He presents a choice. Push the button and someone you don’t know dies. You also receive 1 million dollars for doing so. “The Box” starts on this very idea. The man who shows up is horribly disfigured on one side of his face from a freak lightning accident that left deep scarring.
His rules are simple. In addition to that you must make a choice within 24 hours or the box will be given to someone else and offered the same. Set in Virginia 1976, our couple who have been given this choice are Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur ( James Marsden) Lewis a family of 3 who despite a few unforeseen hardships in there life seem to be doing pretty well for themselves. Frank Langella plays Arlington Steward who is commented at the film start per title card. Apparently Mr. Steward was the unlucky victim of a lightning strike that occurred while on duty at NASA. He was taken to a burn location unit of which he healed pretty rapidly. In his stay he also constructed this box of unknown purpose.
When he appears to offer the Lewis’s a choice he explains that his purpose is classified and can’t be disclosed or reported with out rendering the test void. It is clear very early that the film is based on choice and human nature. We delve into the lives of the Lewis’ and discover that Arthur is a researcher at Langely working on the recent Mars expedition.
His application to become an astronaut though as been denied due to the failure of a psychological test. His wife Norma is a local English teacher who suffers from a handicap from her foot missing several of her toes due to a childhood medical screw up. She is informed that the school can no longer offer discounts on employee children to attend. In short there is cause and effect for the choice they decide which is to simply push the button.
All is delivered as promised but as Arlington points out there is consequences for actions. They have failed the test. As the film moves forward it begins to feel somewhat like an X-files episode as the element of aliens, purgatory and beings of light are brought into the mix. The box is only a means for a test that is to determine if mankind can putaside its selfish desires for the benefit of keeping a human life alive. Much gets a bit unclear at times but essentially works out most of its kinks. Behind the film really lies a message that I’m sure will enter conversations not long after viewing.
Mind control of many who are referred to as “employees” demonstrate the ability of our visitor who has used Mr.’ Steward as a vessel. A few occurrences seem a bit odd and knock the film off kilter at times, though I also felt somewhat cheated when I found out it’s extraterrestrial natured.
Though if it only stopped there it might leave a bad taste in folks mouths. (In fact at one point I was thinking maybe it would go in a more biblical devil on earth direction) We are hinted at an after life that sounds promising and more choices that determine the outcome of the players lives. If there were a moral it would simply be that history repeats itself and we are all created under similar notions.
The film is written and directed by Richard Kelly based on a short story of his. While it does add the category of horror to its genre, really that aspect is subtle with scifi and mystery taking the forefront. I do recommend the film for its originality and freshness. Maybe too many ideas were crammed in that could of been streamlined for more proper consumption but I would say that there is something worth viewing at least for the original plot and buildup.
The Box (2009)