The Box - DVD Review

'frustrating to watch Kelly consistently go one step further than he should, creating a vision that whilst impressive in its influences and unique in its dedication to them, is almost too muddled to recommend'

Following up Donnie Darko and Southland Tales, The Box is director Richard Kelly's latest film of ambitious reach and scope, based on an ostensibly high-concept base. As such, if you're looking for something different, something which plays itself a little straighter perhaps, then you need not apply here, Kelly sticking very much to his mantra of testing his audience with incredible plot contrivances and a distinct lack of verifiable 'answers'.

Which, on one side of the fence, is a very brave move indeed, eschewing typical Hollywood conventions and offering up something that turns from paranoid thriller to supernatural, theological, musings on the human condition. What doesn't help here is Kelly's style which, bizarrely, feels less refined than in his early films, Donnie Darko in particular. As the tale spirals from husband and wife team Norma and Arthur (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) deciding whether or not to press Frank Langella's buttons, we're presented with several customary twists and bends in the narrative. Nothing new there then. The problem is that whilst in Donnie Darko Kelly seemed to have everything under control, even if we didn't, here that doesn't seem to be the case and the plot lurches from one focus to another without apparently caring about its disjointed nature.

Marsden and, in particular, Diaz cope very well with this and as their characters develop from a couple under pressure to a couple in trouble, they react realistically and authoritatively. By the end, despite all that goes before from Kelly, you do really care about Norma and Arthur and significant credit is due to the leads for making this so. Langella, under-used and in the end marginalised by Kelly's story, is also quietly brilliant in a role which requires much more understatement than his turn as Nixon.

Entertaining then certainly, and seeing Kelly trying to create his sub-X-Files and The Twilight Zone world is a joy. Having said that, it's also a frustration to watch him consistently go one step further than he should, creating a vision that whilst impressive in its influences and unique in its dedication to them, is almost too muddled to recommend, saved as it is only by several quite outstanding performances and particularly well realised characters.

Look further...

'Some audiences will fall immediately in love with its clever pacing and refusal to stick to one genre- others become greatly annoyed' - The Green Light, 3/5


  1. I haven't seen a lot of good reviews for this movie... to be honest most of the reviews I've read have labeled somewhere between awful and god awful. Interesting to see a positive one. I don't think it'll inspire me to see it. But I must say I'm a bit more intrigued. Perhaps if it finds a way to basic cable I'll check it out.

  2. I was so weary at the unmistakable Kelly-ness of the second act. It wasn't awful, but it got too caught up in itself.

  3. Uni - I really don't think it's anywhere near awful. As I say, whatever you think of the plot, the performances are rather good (this from someone who thinks Diaz is generally woeful). Reminded me a lot of the conspiracy episodes of THE X-FILES which I largely liked.

    Simon - Completely agree with that. He needs to learn to relax/reign himself in a bit, rather than throwing everything at his films. There was no need for some of the developments he went for and they ended up harming the film.