2009, Movies

The Box (2009, Richard Kelly)

Richard Kelly continues his descent into utter nonsense with this completely unnecessary feature length film version of that old chestnut about the man with a box and $1 million dollars. (It’s worth noting that Kelly has not made a film since this one.)

The story, if you’re not familiar, is of a nice suburban couple who find a box dropped off on their doorstep. Inside is a button. A man soon comes by and tells them that they will earn $1 million is they press the button. The catch? Someone they don’t know will die.

So they hum and haw and eventually push the button. The man comes back, gives them the money and takes the box. They ask what will happen to it, and the man says that it will be given to someone they don’t know.

The moral is easy and simple; what goes around comes around. Or, to put it more nicely, be nice to strangers because you never know when you’ll need help from a stranger.

That’s it. It’s simple and I can sum it up in a matter of sentences. It sure doesn’t need a feature length movie.

(Turns out, it is a short story, actually. The people who have told me the story either read the story or saw the Twilight Zone episode based on it.)

One of the innumerable problems with making a feature length film about this old urban legend is that it makes zero sense the moment you think about it: the world doesn’t operate in any way in which a button could randomly kill someone. And the things that need to be contrived in order to make some kind of plot around this make about as much sense as a button that could randomly kill someone.

The explanation can be basically one of two things:


A malevolent god or ALIENS!!! And what the fuck does the NSA have to do with aliens? And since when were they all-powerful? (They do, sort of, try to explain it.)

So what happens, in order to explain this stupid concept, is that a completely different story is grafted on to the high concept pitch. And it it expands and expands, spiraling out of control. At one point someone actually asks Langella how to pass the test and he says it’s obvious. And then they explain the conceit of this second story.

On another note: there’s a real Pandora’s Box note running through this which smacks of misogyny.

Anyway, this was stupid. You knew that already.


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