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The Box (2009) ** – Paul’s take

November 6, 2009

I saw a pre-release screening of Richard Kelly’s The Box last night (thanks to Warner Bros./AICN), and you’ll have to forgive me, because I’m still a bit confused.  It’s not fair to tie a filmmaker to only one film, but after leaving the theatre last night, I couldn’t help but think that how I felt was very similar to the way I felt leaving my first screening of Donnie Darko.  I felt confused (definitely), I felt intrigued (despite the film being over), and I felt like there was still more for me to explore.

Set in 1976 Virginia, The Box focuses on the story of Arthur & Norma Lewis (awesome names!).  The Lewis family is running into some financial straights (but really nothing a monthly budget can’t fix), until the day when they are introduced to Mr. Arlington Steward, a mysterious messenger from an unknown employer).  Steward gives Norma a “button unit” and a million dollar offer that seems to tickle her fancy.  Simply, push the button and get a million dollars cash (tax free!).  Oh wait, there’s one catch… someone who you do not know will die.

The film progresses in a manner in which I did not expect.  The trailer tees this up as the primary premise of the film… do they or don’t they push the button?  Well, it’s not quite that easy.

SPOILER ALERT: They make their decision within the film’s first 30 minutes.

To sum up the remainder of the film… Mr. Steward’s offer to Arthur and Norma is not quite as simple as it seems.  The are consequences for the choices we make in life.

One thing I really enjoy about The Box is the style that Richard Kelly brought to it.  Much like M. Night Shyamalan’s SignsThe Box is a great homage to 50s and 60s era of science-fiction.  Also, setting the film in 1976 was a great touch, because many of the problems posed in The Boxcould have been solved using modern technology.  For example, when Arlington Steward approaches the Lewis family, if they wanted to learn everything about him, they would just Google him.  In 1976, they would just take his word for it.  The obstacles brought up due to lack of technology add an extra element of intrigue and suspense in this movie.

So, at the end of the day, anyone reading a review wants an answer to one question… “Will I like it?”  Let me say that if you love science fictions/Richard Kelly films/films that make you think a little, you probably will.  The fact that I want to see this again after my first screening is a good sign for me.  The more I think about The Box, the more I want to watch it again.

Go see it!  But before you do, visit for 3 short films that make raise your interest… or confusion.

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