Wednesday, 26 May 2010

No.36 : The Box

It’s 1976 and the Voyager space probes have been launched. Cameron Diaz is married to Cyclops out of ‘X-Men’ and is about to get a delivery. The couple find a box on their door step with a message saying that the delivery man will call the next day - maybe the sender hadn’t put enough stamps on it.

The next day the box delivery man arrives in the shape of Richard Nixon himself, Frank Langella, complete with a CGI covered half face. He tells the couple in a matter of fact fashion that if they press the button on the device inside the box someone they don’t know will die and they’ll get a million bucks. Rather than just smack the button down and demand the cash they have a restless night pondering the dilemma before Cameron presses the button. Huge mistake.

Frank returns to collect his box and delivers the cash. As he leaves he tells them the box will now go to someone else who will be made the same offer - the implication being that Cameron and Cyclops may be the victims of a future button press. Understandably upset they try to weasel out of the deal but are undone at every turn as the box distribution people have confederates on every corner - usually identified by a bleeding nose.

Things start getting a bit weird as legions of seemingly mind controlled people start chasing Cyclops around a library before he is sent home via a big block of water. Meanwhile we see some panicked souls at Langley who know that Frank was killed by lightening shortly after the Voyager probe took off, before being returned to life. They now know that he is in the box and money distribution business but to what end?

Slowly we start to gather the threads together and learn that the whole box set up is a test by persons unknown to gauge the moral value of society and of humanity in general. With Frank back at Cameron’s house he offers an impossible dilemma and the identity of the unknown person who must die in exchange for the cash may not be so unfamiliar after all.

When I saw the first half hour of this film I was wondering why it was called the ‘The Box’ rather than ‘The Button’. As the film progresses however you realise that the button isn’t important and that the box referred to isn’t the container but the restrictions by which we live our lives. At first the dilemma seems a no brainer but then the film cleverly wrong foots you to the point where you think any button pressing would definitely be a bad thing.

I liked the general air of menace and unease that permeates through the film and the idea that everyone is in on this massive conspiracy was a fun if slightly unoriginal one. The first hour of the movie is like a 70s melodrama with a ‘what would you do?’ type narrative before it heads off into totally unexpected places. The CGI of the suspended blocks of water look a bit out of place in the beige 70’s setting but are unnerving and sinister all the same.

The film doesn’t fully explain what was afoot or the motivations behind those involved but I liked that it made you think and subverted your original expectations.

The three leads all do serviceable turns with Diaz possibly the weakest with her varying Southern drawl. I liked how her character was fleshed out with stories of how she lost her toes and it was a brave move to take on an offbeat film like this complete with unflattering fashions. Langella exuded quiet menace throughout and James Marsden did OK with a limited role that mostly involved looking a bit confused.

I’d imagine a lot of Saturday night cinema audience would have left ‘The Box’ with a ‘WTF’ attitude but I enjoyed it’s weirdness and thought provoking subject matter. It was maybe a bit long at two hours but over all it’s well worth taking delivery of ‘The Box’.

THE Tag Line : Box Tops! 78%

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