The new film “The Box” starts off with a simple premise. A stranger leaves a box at a young couple’s door early one morning in Richmond, Virginia. Later on, that stranger comes to visit the couple and he tells the young wife that if she pushes the red button in the box, she’ll receive a million dollars but someone that she does not know will die. The stranger does not explain how or who or even why this will occur. He just gives her the instructions and a time-frame. The premise is an interesting one to develop but unfortunately, this movie fails to develop it and the film is quickly overwhelmed by a bizarre series of events that follows the choice over whether or not to push the button.
The film is set in the mid-1970s and the lead couple, Arthur and Norma Lewis, are played by James Marsden and Cameron Diaz. He works for NASA and she’s an elementary school teacher. They’re a relatively boring couple with one son The movie begins with the doorbell ringing very early in the morning and the couple finding the box on the doorstep. Mrs. Lewis learns more about the box from Arlington Steward, played by Frank Langella, the mystery man who dropped it off. The young couple has recently faced some disappointing news about their jobs and the financial benefits of pushing the button are obvious to both of them, even though their financial situation has not been detailed enough to show a compelling desire for them to lean towards pushing the button at the expense of another person’s life.
Whether or not to push the button is the psychological dilemma that the characters are faced with. Will they choose to benefit themselves at the expense of a stranger’s death? Will the button really cause a person’s death, and if they push it not believing in the consequences are they still accountable for it?
It is, after all, just a button. In a box.
Unfortunately, though, the debate about these issue is over rather quickly. Instead of focusing on the reasons behind making either choice, a decision is made hastily. The movie then becomes about the consequences of the decision rather than the choice itself, which would have been a far more interesting concept to explore.
From the decision about the button until the end of the movie, the film explores the repercussions that come from the couple’s choice. Once that choice is made, the movie quickly trends into a surreal and strange journey too bizarre for viewers to care much about. The premise of the movie comes with enough questions to last for the rest of the film, but instead of slowly answering them and raising the stakes on the choice, the movie instead takes the audience into an even stranger world that involves lightning strikes, identity loss, and zombie-like behavior. These odd events keep occurring without a full or clear explanation.
Also, because the movie starts off quickly, there is very little time to develop the lead characters and their status in life. From then on, it is hard to understand their actions and motivations and to empathize with their plight. We know the couple faced frustrations at the workplace and obviously a million dollars would be beneficial, but who are these people before they receive the box is a question never asked. Since the box comes into play so early in the movie, the characters are often doing and saying things that revolve around it.
Overall, I did like the premise of the movie and I was intrigued when I saw the commercial. However, if you expect a psychological thriller about a strange choice and how a couple makes it, you’ll be sorely disappointed. This movie focuses on the less interesting consequences of the choice and the weird and paranormal nature of those consequences.
The movie had a lot of promise on the outside but on the inside, viewers will quickly learn how shallow this box really is.