The Box

2009

The Box

Critics Consensus

Imaginative but often preposterous, The Box features some thrills but largely feels too piecemeal.

44%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 155

24%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 359,046
User image

The Box Photos

Movie Info

Norma and Arthur Lewis are a suburban couple with a young child who receive an anonymous gift bearing fatal and irrevocable consequences. A simple wooden box, it promises to deliver its owner $1 million with the press of a button. However, pressing this button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world--someone they don't know. With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the crosshairs of a startling moral dilemma and face the true nature of their humanity.

Watch it now

Cast

Cameron Diaz
as Norma Lewis
James Marsden
as Arthur Lewis
Frank Langella
as Arlington Steward
James Rebhorn
as Norm Cahill
Holmes Osborne
as Dick Burns
Sam Oz Stone
as Walter Lewis
Celia Weston
as Lana Burns
Deborah Rush
as Clymene Steward
Lisa K. Wyatt
as Rhonda Martin
Mark S. Cartier
as Martin Teague
Kevin Robertson
as Wendell Matheson
Michele Durrett
as Rebecca Matheson
Michele Durett
as Rebecca Matheson
Ian Kahn
as Vick Brenner
John Magaro
as Charles
Ryan Woodle
as Jeffrey Carnes
Basil Hoffman
as Don Poates
Robert Harvey
as NASA Executive #1
Gentry Lee
as Chief Engineer
Frank Ridley
as Detective Starrs
Daniel Stewart Sherman
as Police Officer #1
Matthew C. Flynn
as Police Officer #2
Patrick Eugene Canty
as Police Officer #3
Mary Klug
as Female Neighbor
Allyssa Maurice
as Suzanne Weller
Cheryl McMahon
as Female 911 Operator
Evelina Oboza
as Deborah Burns
Bill Buell
as Dr. Earl Stupe
Paul Marini
as Santa Claus
Don Warnock
as Doctor Y
W. Kirk Avery
as Doctor Z
Don Hewitt
as Employee
Rick L'Heureux
as Chase Employee
Nicholas Cairis
as Chase Employee
Robert Denton
as Chase Employee
Paul Locke
as Chase Employee
Danny DeMiller
as Chase Employee
Jenna Lamia
as Voice of Diane Carnes
View All

News & Interviews for The Box

Critic Reviews for The Box

All Critics (155) | Top Critics (27)

  • Kelly treats what is essentially a Stanford University psychology experiment with inflated somberness.

    Sep 24, 2011 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Is it an odd film? Certainly. Will it creep you out more than it engages you? Probably. Should we be rewarding folks who are willing to step out of bounds and make us think? Definitely.

    May 6, 2011 | Rating: B | Full Review…

    Laremy Legel

    Film.com
    Top Critic
  • While it's true that the film's sci-fi antics are far from watertight in the logic department, there's enough eccentricity and ambition at play to charm and bemuse in equal measure.

    Dec 4, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    David Jenkins

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The clueless and overreaching ambition which has started to characterise [Richard Kelly's] cinematic failures comes into play again.

    Dec 4, 2009 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • This film just goes interminably on and on, like some pop video to a prog rock track from hell, padding things out to feature length with all sorts of incredible gibberish and extraneous nonsense.

    Dec 4, 2009 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Sinister, tense and at times ridiculous, The Box is a warped genre piece - Kelly's homage to 1970s science-fiction, with all the wobbly effects, timid housewives and pseudo-religious imagery that suggests.

    Dec 4, 2009 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for The Box

  • Oct 08, 2015
    Normally when a film has many bad reviews I get interested since the film is likely very good or very bad. Surprisingly, The Box is only an average film. It is not reminiscent of Donnie Darko since it is not at all stylized. The Box watches like a Twilight Zone episode made into a two hour movie. If you enjoy generally creepy / weird shows and are OK with them not delivering an explanation (e.g. Lost) then you will probably enjoy The Box.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 30, 2014
    The Box is a nebulous psychological thriller from writer/director Richard Kelly. Based on a Richard Matheson short story, a young couple is presented with an offer to receive $1 million if they push a button, but as a result someone will die. Starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, and Frank Langella, the casting is pretty good. But the script is a convoluted mess. It teases out some fascinating mysteries, but they devolve into inexplicable nonsense. Still, Kelly is able to create an atmospheric mood and builds the suspense incredibly well. Yet ultimately, The Box is a poorly executed film that loses its sense of mystery by getting caught up in minutia.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 09, 2012
    The Box is not meant to scare you at all, but its meant to creep you out with its good atmosphere and fine performances from its three leads, but the plot could confuse you and it might bore you because of the lack of scares. But once again, this is not a horror movie, its a suspense/thriller movie! I found it not great, but good, and the ending is tragic and very creepy.
    Angel G Super Reviewer
  • Jan 13, 2012
    *** out of **** A movie as perplexing as "The Box" is a rare find, especially when it's a very mainstream picture. But then again, it isn't easy to imagine that Richard Kelly, whose breakthrough feature was the illusive and fascinating "Donnie Darko", is capable of making a mainstream movie for Hollywood. But if he ever did, this would be it. Now, I know that it isn't easy to enjoy or even appreciate a movie like this on first glance - heck, I didn't even like it upon my initial viewing - but I'm a strong believer that anything Richard Kelly directs is worth looking at least a second look, if not a third. With all three of his movies so far, I've gone back and revisited their labyrinths of beauty and sometimes all-out frustration; and all but once, my desire for a greater understanding of the material has been met and satisfied. In my opinion, that's the magic of a Richard Kelly film; there is almost always intelligence, underneath the surface, even if the surface is rough and unconventional. It is early morning, and the ring of a doorbell wakes the Lewis family - Norma (Cameron Diaz), Arthur (James Marsden), and son Walter -, revealing a box left on their doorstep by some anonymous person who takes off almost instantly in a black car. Norma takes the box inside, and for the rest of the morning, the family ponders it. However, they have lives to return to (Norma is a High School teacher; Arthur works for NASA), so they put these thoughts on hold, at least, until they return home. This is when the man who delivered the box stops by the house for a nice chat, in which he introduces himself - as Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) - and informs Norma of the purpose that the box intends to serve. During his visit, Mr. Steward explains that under the glass dome that sits at the top of the box is a little red button. To push the button would mean two things: somebody in the world, unbeknownst to the Lewis family, would die, and also, they would receive a payment of one million dollars. While the guilt of being responsible for the death of another troubles Norma; the family needs financial support, and Arthur doesn't seem to be (currently) capable of providing that and neither does she. So once Mr. Steward leaves and Arthur comes home; they make their final decision on what to do. Ultimately, Norma pushes the button; and promptly, Steward returns to supply them with their promised payment. And it's assumed that this is the end, but in fact, it's just the beginning. The film successfully toys with our minds for quite some time; there's a cold-blooded murder committed nearby where the Lewis' live; which involved a husband, who was reported to be kindly and perfectly civilized, shooting his wife dead and frightening his young daughter, who the police later found locked in the household bathroom. There's the possibility that this could be the person that the Lewis' killed through their decision to push the button; but by the time the story has advanced more after this scene, it becomes clear that even more possibilities are, well, possible. In the opinions of many, that might be confusing and infuriating; but to me, it's intriguing, and it demonstrates plenty of skill on Kelly's part. "The Box" certainly proves a lot of things, but above all, it proves that Kelly can craft an engaging and intelligent mystery-suspense story, working from a short story by Richard Matheson. The film is at one moment absurd, and another kind of believable. Setting the story in the 1970's was quite possibly Kelly's best choice; since back then, you could still have door-to-door salesmen (which Mr. Steward KIND OF is), and thus setting it in a more modern time would have come off as just completely unbelievable. Sure, there are still elements of the story - in the form of plot holes - that are difficult to accept or let alone fully comprehend, but this seems like a personal piece for Kelly, and it brings back memories of "Darko". That could of course mean different things for everyone; but to me it means a return to the flawed complexities of Kelly's wicked, brilliant, dark imagination. There are scenes of striking visual beauty here (the cinematography is gorgeous); such as one where Arthur meets Steward's "wife" in a library, where she leads him to a room in which three rectangular water blocks rise up and act as a sort of gateway, each on representing something different. But only one leads to salvation, as the wife says. There's also a really cool and interesting aspect of the story that Kelly toys around with for a while; that Mr. Steward has employees, even though he claims to have an employer himself; perhaps he's just high up there on his obscure food-chain of...whatever. Anyways, these "employees" are like mindless zombies; and they pop up to spy on the Lewis family whenever they get suspicious of Steward's actions, the box, and his identity. The employees alone create some of the film's creepiest and most tense moments; although Kelly is able to create suspense and atmosphere otherwise, which is good, because no one wants a movie entirely devoted to the employees rather than the employers, even if they aren't even talked about at great length, or with great depth. Oh well, at least the random nosebleeds got some whacky explanation. So while it may be confusing and in need of a slightly improved Director's Cut somewhere down the road (you know, to fill up the plot holes); "The Box" is still a thoroughly engaging mystery that keeps the intrigue and distant fascination consistent throughout. It isn't perfectly entertaining to my taste, but I couldn't look away; seeing it the second time introduced me to a whole new movie, one that rewards its audience as long as they're willing to suspend their disbelief. It has all the qualities of a Richard Kelly movie: a mish-mash of many different philosophical and existential themes, what seems or looks like time travel, and Holmes Osborne. It's not perfect, and it's not going to impress a lot of people (particularly those who can't get over a few silly lines of stupid dialogue and some illogical concepts); but I still liked it nevertheless, for what it was, and what it aspires to be. It makes it possible for me to forget "Southland Tales" all-together and acknowledge that Kelly has the skills to back up his many ideas; with "The Box", he still does, and there's a sense that he always will.
    Ryan M Super Reviewer

The Box Quotes

News & Features