People, I must say I am very, very surprised. A little movie that I thought would be woefully lacking ended up being one of my favorite movies of the year so far. The Box is actually a whole lot of preposterous fun.
The basic plot of the movie is thus. There's a couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) with an adolescent son (Sam Oz Stone) in Richmond, VA in 1976 that has fallen into money trouble after the mother loses the tuition waver for her son to go to school, and dad doesn't get the promotion he was so betting on. Well, Frank Langella shows up at the door one day with a box contraption in his hands, a briefcase of money and a badly burned face. He tells the couple (well, the mother since Marsden isn't home at the time) that he has a proposal to make. They take the box, and if they push the button on it they will get 1 million dollars, tax free. Somewhere, someone they don't know will die. Don't push the button, and nothing will happen, and they don't get the money. (He gives them 100 bucks just for allowing him in though.) He tells them they have 24 hours to make a decision. To make a long story short, the button ends up being pushed, and the effects are larger than anything you could imagine.
The most interesting part for me was that the movie was set in Richmond. I didn't know this before I went to see it. I saw the movie while in Richmond too. It's evident they filmed it there, as what few landmarks they have are in the movie... at least the ones they had in 1976. That's another thing I liked. I love movies that are set in some recently past time. Movies set in the present are rendered uninteresting when everything can be solved using the internet or a cell phone. Richard Kelly has set a movie in the recent past before. Donnie Darko was set in the mid 1980s, and it gave that movie a feel that you couldn't have if it was set in the present. It made things more interesting. The same can be said here. I think setting a movie in the past like this throws the audience. Things are familiar, but at the same time very different. It can create an odd sense of mystery or dread, and I must say I have no idea why it does.
The film is much more complex than the trailer or plot summary would make one think. It's definitely a wild ride from start to finish. Does everything make sense? It seemed to for the most part, but I'm sure when I watch it again, I will notice a few plot holes. The movie is just under two hours, but had a rough cut of three hours. I think it'd be interesting to view that full cut one day, and I hope I can. I'm already willing to call this movie one of the best of the year, so I can't imagine the director's cut making me think otherwise.
I wasn't ready for the movie to be as creepy as it was, which I should have been, as I found Donnie Darko to be a bit creepy too. It's obvious that Kelly stole something from the '78 version of Invasion of The Body Snatchers, because there are scenes where people in the film will just stare at the main characters or just randomly start to follow them with blank expressions. Now it may sound like I'm just gushing over this movie, but it did have it's faults. I couldn't connect with the main characters because they acted like they were having all this financial trouble, and were worried about how they would live their life. Sounds reasonable, considering the circumstances right? Not when you count that Marsden works for NASA, Diaz works for a private school, they live in a nice house in downtown Richmond (which is not cheap even in '76), and Marsden drives a nice Corvette. Heck, that's better than I'll probably EVER do. I just can't believe that, sorry.
The movie worked in a lot of philosophical ideas that were very interesting as well. John Paul Sartre is brought up quite a few times in the movie. I propose that anyone interested in philosophy go see this, as in that context it's perhaps even MORE interesting. I think this movie is better than both of Kelly's other films, (not a hard thing with Southland Tales), and I am eager to see where he goes from here.
Is the movie preposterous? Yes. But damned if it isn't interesting and fun as hell. I tell you, a movie hasn't had me as engrossed this year since Knowing, which had the same creepy mysterious feel as this. I heartily recommend this.
**** out of *****