Film: The Box
Director: Richard Kelly
Starring: Cameran Diaz, James Marsden
Runtime: 115 Mins
If you disregard his unremarkable and overly ambitious 2007 sophomore effort Southland Tales, fans of Richard Kelly have been made to wait for a follow-up of any note since his weird yet wonderful debut effort – 2001’s cult classic Donnie Darko. In true Donnie style, his new feature The Box, adapted from the short story Button, Button by sci-fi writer Richard Matheson, imaginatively subverts numerous genres and narrative conventions, playing out in the style of a 1970’s supernatural thriller with titbits of horror and sci-fi thrown in for good measure. The premise is intriguing: a couple receive a box containing a red button, should they press it, they will receive $1 million but someone, somewhere will die. This moral quandary essentially centres around the idea of extraordinary things happening to ordinary people, while tackling big themes such as the nature of humanity, family and control.
Our protagonists (James Marsden and Cameron Diaz) are pitted against the malevolent and unscrupulous Frank Langella and the story unfolds with an admirable tone of foreboding; Kelly’s own style is imposed for all to see. And yet he becomes too wound up in his own hodgepodge of ideas. The tightly shot beginning soon gives way to melodrama and the overreaching sci-fi characteristics become less and less believable as the movie progresses. Mainstream audiences can only suspend their disbelief so far, and the unfocused ending leads us to wonder whether Kelly’s fantastic debut was just a flash in the pan, as he continues to demonstrate a failure to fulfil his once bright potential.