Lead Us Not into Temptation
The Box gives viewers a chance to think about how they would respond to an intriguing offer, one with important moral implications. Unfortunately, this movie contains so many distractions, the main theme is hard to follow. And despite a few dazzling visual effects, the film left me disappointed and confused. That’s unusual -- because I’m usually a sucker for thrillers like this.
Cameron Diaz (My Sister’s Keeper) and James Marsden (Enchanted) play a husband and wife facing serious financial problems. Enter Frank Langella’s (Frost/Nixon) character, who presents the two with a tempting proposition -- if they push the button on the box he’s given them, they will receive a million dollars. The catch? Someone they do not know will die.
While I applaud writer/director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) for taking on a provocative moralistic dilemma in his movie, I can’t help wishing he focused on it instead of adding other elements that draw us away from the emotional decision of the key characters. Did we need NASA and nonsensical sci-fi sequences to make the film more mysterious and interesting? Not at all, for the personal conflict combined with how and why the man and wife respond the way they do are enough to involve us deeply in their dilemma. Will they show compassion for the individual who may die if they push the button? Or will they act selfishly and push the button to improve their own lives? And what if the offer results in consequences that backfire on them no matter what they do?
Finding out the answers to those questions promises to evoke suspense, especially if handled in a straightforward, down-to-earth manner. But, for some reason or other, Kelly decided to go for over-the-top embellishments, thereby ruining a perfectly good premise. Yes, some of the special effects -- particularly those watery “portals” in a library setting -- come across as eye-popping. However, they serve primarily as one of the annoying distractions here.
On the positive side, both Diaz and Marsden deliver fine performances -- even in some highly farfetched scenes. Diaz is constantly growing as an actress, and Marsden always surprises me with his versatility. Langella endows his character with just the right amount of mystery. Also, the “burn” make-up job on his face is quite effective, which adds to our curiosity about what he’s up to and why.
Because I’m an avid thriller fan, I looked forward to seeing The Box. Sadly, it did not live up to my expectations -- but perhaps I’ve been spoiled by seeing all those suspenseful Hitchcock movies.
(Released by Warner Bros and rated “PG-13” for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images.)
For more information about this film, please go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.