Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Box. A-

Imagine if you were given the opportunity to receive a million dollars with the only drawback being that one person in the world, who you have never met, will die. It takes just a simple push of a button on a small box for this to happen. Those are the terms of a proposition made by a mysterious stranger to Mr. and Mrs. Lewis-played by James Marsden and Cameron Diaz. The Lewis' are a happy couple with one child and a nice house in Virginia. Mr. Lewis works with NASA while Mrs. Lewis is a teacher at her son's school. But it seems quite a coincidence that this box arrives just when the Lewis' fall into financial trouble. They discuss the dilemma and, as humans, feel obvious uncertainty over the fact that someone will die. 'What if it's a baby?' says Mr. Lewis. 'What if it's someone on death row?' Mrs. Lewis replies. The bearer of the box is a stranger named Arlington Steward. Half of his face looks like it's been chewed off by a dog, but it doesn't distract us from his character. It just makes him all the more intriguing. He's played wonderfully by Frank Langella, who's returning to his signature supporting role after turning in a lead as Richard Nixon in 2008's 'Frost Nixon.' I will say that Mr. and Mrs. Lewis decide to push the button and I will say that, as Steward rightfully informs us, actions have their consequences. But to reveal anything else in this crazy story would take away the greatness of it. Here's a movie that starts out pretty normal and stays that way for a while until we suddenly find out this is some serious science fiction. 'The Box' is written and directed by Richard Kelly, who of course made the great 'Donnie Darko' back in 2001. This is his third feature and I believe he's some kind of talent. 'The Box' has the same look and feel as 'Darko' did: mysterious, dreamlike, with psychological undertones and a human touch that makes us believe and care about it. I've seen 'The Box' twice now and the second go-round really let me know it's a near-masterpiece. I know a lot of people hated it, but I think it's really great. Why? Because the story fascinates me. The way the way it plays out, the moral dilemmas, the use heavy involvement of NASA, and the characters and how we really feel invested in them. I also loved the setting in the 70s. It made me feel like I was seeing one of Spielberg's early classics. And one other thing: I thought Cameron Diaz was great in this. I've never really thought much of her as an actress. I'm not really sure why, because when she's not doing her silly rom-coms, she can act.

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