The Box (2009)

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Richard Kelly directs Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella in this Twilight Zone style mystery about a 70s couple given a red button with simple instructions  – if they press it they receive a million dollars, also if they press it someone they do not know will die. 

The Box is an absorbing supernatural thriller that gets off on its escalating sense period paranoia rather than set-pieces or logic. The first act recreates one those neat impending twist imminent Tales of of the Unexpected; faithful, tight and straight. The second hour shifts into the world of fantasy, punishment and fear without ever feeling like it has gone off the rails. It retains its grip even though we run off into unchartered territory, slowly looping in and out of the ramifications of the button being pressed. Kelly never really followed through on the brilliance of Donnie Darko. Here he at least taps back into his wunderkind debut’s woozy suburban angst but it is a colder, more detached experience. He lovingly recreates elaborate NASA testing factories and sitcom era kitchens then fills them with teasingly confusing bleakness. And I really like that. Langella convinces as the otherworldly choice giver and button deliverer. We also get Cameron Diaz’ last great performance now she has seemingly retired. Vulnerable yet curious, the comedy actress was rarely stretched by her likeable filmography, but this morality tale needs to be reassessed as one of her strongest dramatic risks.

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