Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Box (2009)


Richard Kelly takes himself very seriously. I mean this in a good way. If you saw his last film, Southland Tales (2005) and walked away thinking it was a train wreck, but a very interesting one, you will probably think The Box is too. Like Southland Tales, it has a panoply of hairpin turns in the plot. But in Southland the twists got out of control, resulting in so many meta-layers I had nothing to pivot on. I enjoyed this to an extent but didn't trust how it all added up. The Box follows a similar logic, but Kelly juggles the twists with confidence, like a seasoned tugboat captain. Still, yet, the utter seriousness of the film's tone, which is commendable, seemed out of step with the ridiculousness of the story. I can't tell yet whether this is just me not being used to it, or if it really doesn't quite work. Most films that build on preposterousness seem to do so with a wink, or treat it like a bunch of fancy bells and whistles to flaunt as if to say "Isn't this AMAZING!". The day-glow frisson of greatness still isn't 'there' yet for Kelly, but he's still one of the most interesting directors out there.

The Box is basically a morality tale in the cloak of horror and sci-fi. A young couple with a son, strapped for cash, are visited by a man with half his face missing. He presents them with a box with a button on top. If they press the button, they get one million dollars (it takes place in the 70s), but someone they don't know will die as a result. If they choose not to press the button, they don't receive the money and the box will be presented to someone else.
Simple enough, but throw in stuff about the first Mars Viking landing, free-will, morality, possible Martians, lightning, physical deformity, and CIA government conspiracy, things get out of hand very quickly.

It was an intriguing film and I hope you watch it.

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