PG-13 Dir: Richard Kelly | Warner | 116 min.
Review By: Matt Brighton | January 28th, 2012
Plot: What’s it about?
There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “If something’s too good to be true, then it probably is.” Evidently the characters in “The Box” have never heard of that saying and it causes all sorts of problems for them. More on that a little later, though. I can remember the ads for this film only a few months ago and plots really don’t get much more basic than this. But this movie is directed by Richard Kelly, the man behind the cult-classic, “Donnie Darko” so I was more than intrigued to see if there really was more than met the eye. It turns out I was right. And lastly, whenever I hear someone being offered $1 million dollars for something that’s too terribly easy, I always tend to go back to “Indecent Proposal”. Sorry, it’s the movie-watcher in me, but I will say that “The Box” and “Indecent Proposal” are about as different as night and day.
We meet Arthur and Karen Lewis (James Mardsen and Cameron Diaz, respectively). Arthur is a scientist at NASA trying to become an astronaut and Karen a teacher at a nice private school. The two are having financial difficulties and wouldn’t you know it, a strange package arrives at their house in the wee hours of the morning. Karen is visited by a strange man, missing half of his face (Frank Langella) who offers the couple a very simple deal. There’s a button and if it’s pushed, someone, somewhere will die and in return they’ll receive a million dollars tax free. This person will not be someone they know and it being the mid 70’s a million dollars was a lot more money then than now. The question is, do they push the button? Of course they do, otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie. I’ll keep the secrets of the movie to myself, but suffice it to say that if something’s too good to be true, it probably is (read the first sentence of this review for a “I told you so”).
I was never too big of a fan of “Donnie Darko” and the subsequent follow-up, “Southland Tales” but there’s no denying that director Richard Kelly knows how to make a cult classic. In “The Box” he filled in a lot of the details from the original 6 page short story with those from his own life. His father really did work at NASA and his mother really did have her toes amputated due to an error by a doctor. Its little things like this that do give the film its genuineness. I do think the film was mis-marketed as a horror film as opposed to more of a psychological thriller. Is the movie scary? Not really. What the movie does is make you think, it makes you realize what you’d actually do for the almighty dollar. Be careful what you wish for…
Video: How does it look?
“The Box” is presented in a very nice 2.40:1 VC-1 HD transfer. This being a new to Blu-ray film, the presentation is second to none. The color palette used is very subdued, with the colors being comprised of mostly earthy tones (this is the 70’s after all). Detail level is excellent, take into account the way Langella’s characters face looks, with the prosthetic face looking very real and very eerie. I also took note of one of the early scenes in which Diaz’s character is in her classroom and I noticed that everything written on the chalkboard was legible. I don’t think that’d be possible with a standard DVD. A great-looking transfer from Warner.
Audio: How does it sound?
The soundtrack is very subdued with some moments that’ll test all of your speakers as well. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack isn’t quite used to its capacity, but a few moments stood out like a car wreck near the end of the film. Dialogue is, of course, very clear and clean and we get to hear Mardsen and Diaz do their best Virginia southern accents. Despite those few moments in which the surrounds really do take control, it’s a very underscored track (pardon the pun). Still, it’s a nice effort and is consistent with most Blu-ray releases.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There aren’t many supplements on this Blu-ray disc, though the audio commentary by director Richard Kelly gives us some insight on the film, how he and author of the short story worked together on the script and some details about the shoot. There are two featurettes, one with author Richard Matheson as he gives us some details about his career as an author and some of his selected works. The second is essentially an EPK that gives a few interviews with the cast and crew and their thoughts on the film. Also included are some music video prequels and a look at the makeup that helped turn actor Frank Langella into a living monster. There is a second disc with a digital copy of the film as well.
- (2.40:1) Aspect Ratio
- Video Codec: VC-1
- Audio: DTS HD Master
- Theatrical Trailer
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scene(s)
- Digital Copy
- 2 Disc Set