The consequence of free will is examined in Richard Kelly’s mind bending morality tale, The Box.
Successfully blending the extraterrestrial with the theological to create an often implausible yet deftly directed film, Kelly masterfully draws his viewers into The Box’s twisted moral dilemma, and has them guessing until the final reel.
Set in 1970s American suburbia, the film stars Cameron Diaz and James Marsden (both excellent) as a struggling middle class couple, who agree to a dance with the Devil who comes bearing strange fruit.
Frank Langella plays the mystifying and disfigured man, who approaches the couple with a mysterious box in tow and a proposition: push the button on the box and receive $1 million, but do so and someone, somewhere will die.
From that point on, Kelly presents a strange and at times puzzling sci-fi cautionary fable, which is blanketed with a thick fog of doom that protrudes from the screen and engulfs its audience.
As with his Donnie Darko, Kelly laces his film with Lynch-esque moments of oddball mystery, which in this case fuels its intentional recreation of the 1970s paranoia thriller sub-genre.
That The Box can feel like a feature length episode of popular sci-fi series The Twilight Zone, what with its out-there scenario and atmospheric soundtrack courtesy of indie rock group Arcade Fire, should come as no surprise since its source material (short story “Button, Button” by Richard Matheson) was once adapted into a Twilight Zone episode.
Grounding The Box from its often mind boggling sci-fi is its moral and spiritual core. Kelly’s commentary on mankind’s capacity for individual desire over the greater good, will haunt its audience upon completion, and inspire much discussion afterwards.
It is rare to find a film loaded with the amount of ideas found here, that does not come off as cluttered or pretentious. The previously released Knowing dealt with similar material, yet collapsed under the weight of its themes.
Somehow, Kelly has managed to create a film which not only delivers on both a fantastical and human level, but also delivers on the promise of his potential as a filmmaker worth investing in.