The Box

SCI-FI THRILLER; 1hr 55min

STARRING: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella

Goodbye, stranger? Marsden and Diaz

The premise of this provocative sci-fi thriller is based on “Button, Button”, a 1970 James Matheson short story turned The Twilight Zone episode, and it’s a grabber: in 1976, struggling Virginians Arthur Lewis, a NASA techie, and his teacher wife, Norma (Marsden and Diaz, both toned way down), receive an early-morning delivery of a mysterious metal box. It is designed by a horribly burned yet impeccably distinguished man (Langella, snakeskin-smooth) who later drops by the Lewis house to offer Norma $1 million tax-free cash to press a button in the box’s glass-domed lid. If she does so, a stranger will die.


In an express trip to the wild side, life as the Lewises know it is obliterated. Dead-straight strangeness was always mandatory in the Zone and while working his way through the accumulating David Lynch–tinged weirdness of his screenplay, director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales) maintains a sombre mood. And so he should, for at the core of the wiggy extraterrestrial shenanigans lies the kind of urgent moral question that defines both head-scratcher sci-fi and classic human tragedy.