The idea was a couple are visited by a man with a box, a box that contains a button, and the man comes with a proposition. Press the button and receive a million dollars; however someone you don't know will die. Don't press the button and the box is taken away and onto the next person.
Cool idea, but was it a cool film? Well despite some critical praise, audiences didn't exactly take to it. So I took advantage of it being free to view for customers on LOVEFiLM's online service, fired up the PS3 and watched it, and I was pleasantly surprised.
When they decide to press the button they do so not really believing what will happen, and when they discover the truth they choose not to accept it, to turn away, but they are already on a course that they can't escape.
What had me fascinated above all about The Box was the story and the way it played out, and that's something you can't say of many films these days, not many at all. In fact try and think how many films in the last year you've seen where the story had you fascinated.
It's one of these stories that had me thinking about it long after the film had finished, mulling over the turns in the story and wondering what could have been done differently by the characters and what that could have meant.
Those types of thoughts and feelings of unanswered questions are what I expected from a Richard Kelly film. A story that presents lots of possibilities and doesn't hand everything to you on a plate, explaining everything as it goes and spelling it all out for you.
It's great that the film leaves a lot of open questions, showing you as much as the characters see and understand, and sometimes just a little bit more, but never over explaining the story and revealing so much more than they would know or understand themselves.
This leaves a lot of room for you to think about the gaps between what we have seen, what has been hinted at, or even what we would decide to do in the situation that the couple are faced with.
There were a couple of areas that broke this format and went a little too far, the scenes the characters spent in the car journey were perhaps the most obvious where were subjected to a rapid fire explanation of events. There were some other aspects of the film that needed some more fleshing out, such as the continual news reports and what they really had to do with it all. It did retain plenty of mystery, but a little more here might have helped enrich the story and perhaps not make some of the more fantastical elements such a leap.
The story starts on a small scale, in the beginning it's all about the box, the couple and the impossible choices they are faced with, not to mention the mysterious stranger. However this builds to something much bigger and more epic in the later stages. It's difficult to call whether that's a good or bad thing, for the smaller scale story is more interesting and yet when it becomes the bigger story it gets more exciting and filled with possibilities.
It was interesting to find the story set in the past, perhaps a connection with the original short story, but it did lend a certain Twilight Zone feel to the story which coupled with the grain of the picture, which I'm not sure was entirely down to the online streaming but had a lot to do with the production and styling keeping you in that time setting.
However there's something about this period setting which also gives the film some hope, that because it's set then and we're still watching it, perhaps things have turned out for the better after all.
The effects for The Box, particularly on Frank Langella, aren't perfect for the CG we see in films these days, but it was highly effective and did do a great job of not only making me uncomfortable about the character and to keep me glancing at it, just as the couple were.
Langella is good in the film, but his role is limited, both James Marsden and Cameron Diaz are the ones to watch and give good performances with some very strong moments, particularly at the end when the story is at its most dramatic.
The Box isn't as bad as most make out, it's a fascinating idea that isn't perfectly conceived on film, but does do a great job of delivering a thriller that doesn't tread the normal path. I think it does go a little too far at times into the fantastical, losing sight of the core characters and their situation, but it does come back well at the end and deliver a pretty powerful and intriguing ending that will get you thinking.