Thursday, November 19, 2009


In 1976, a suburban Virginia couple in somewhat dire financial crisis are given an apparatus by a mysterious and mutilated stranger. If they push the button on the apparatus, they will be given one million dollars, and someone unknown to them will die.

Your proprietor was skeptical about this, a two-hour adaptation of a short story by Richard Matheson, courtesy DONNIE DARKO/SOUTHLAND TALES director Richard Kelly. Though it is a minor film, it's a solid yarn, pleasantly (and, given the Matheson connection, perhaps unsurprisingly) TWILIGHT ZONE-ish in tone. Kelly has filled out the feature's final two-thirds with an escalating, fantastic plot and many mysterious incidents, but each one is explained effectively (unlike the sprawling SOUTHLAND TALES mythology, the story's well-contained here). Cameron Diaz is solid as the suburban wife/mother/teacher, and one imagines that her involvement helped get the thing made, but the movie belongs to Frank Langella, who brings gravitas and vulnerability to the crucial role of Steward. I'm not sure there's as evocative and ultimately moving a character on screen these days.

As your proprietor is not in the business of spoiler-dealing (and there's plenty to give away here), I do encourage you to see this thing for yourself. For all of the conspiratorial metaphysics, there's an old-school morality tale being told in THE BOX, delivered in a style and with a grace that Shyamalan's few remaining fans would appreciate.

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