review: The Box – 4/5

Watched The Box tonight, and really enjoyed it. While I don’t like camaroon diaz much at all, I loved pretty much everyone else. Also, I should probably disclose that I’m inexplicably a huge James Marsden fan (ever since Gossip), so I was quietly thrilled that he was getting his shot. I remember seeing frank langella in Body Of Evidence and thinking “Oh how the mighty have fallen.” And I didn’t really believe or respect his recent Nixon performance. but He totally fucking owns every moment he’s onscreen in this movie, methinks. It was like christopher lee or patrick stewart – you just find youself thinking this guy is dripping with presence.

My only gripe about the movie is that 2 lines (scenes?) were pretty hokey. like cheeeeeeesy. Like “I think I’ve forgotten how to love” moments (that line isn’t actually in the movie. It’s from the trailer for some horrific urban-angst ethan hawke movie with kris kristofferson. To me – that line epitomizes this horrible bullshit hippie love claptrap that you get in certain pretentious movies. It’s like bad poetry. ugh). Only two painfully hokey moments in a full length sci fi mind trip mystery which is meditating on modern mortality magic and freedoms? EPIC WIN!

… The movie is very much a slow weird philosophical meditation.
At some points i was reminded of M.Night Shyamalan due to slow meaningful shots of quiet people emoting (in the “i wonder if this is going to be his style from now on” way).
At times I thought of david lynch (in the good way. weird memorable visuals).
At times i thought of the wachowski’s (in a controlled careful shots and highbrow author-name-dropping and philosophical concept simplifying)
And at moments i thought of Southland Tales (in the silly-caricature way).

eh. But basically I’d highly recommend it. I think it safe to say this movie offers a very different experience from any other movie that has been released this year (er, that i’ve seen). It may not be a perfect adult philosophy science fiction flic. but it’s the only adult philosophy science fiction flic you’ll get?

The key to enjoying it is: the mystery and how it unravels. Although it is ultimately full of some negative thoughts and unsettling creepy moments. Not the kind of movie with a lot of audience high fives on the way out.
If you like the dark premise (or liked Donnie Darko, or just want to see a strange dark creepy science fiction movie) – stop reading and just go seeeeeee ittttttt.

and now…

ENTER SPOILER TOWN:==========================
-I hated the water cgi. why? why did they do that? ugh. it felt like straight to video bullshit. I also thought the nosebleeds were weirdly askew. but maybe they were trying to imply something? hmm.
-I really liked the movie most as the credits rolled. I was wrapped up with anger over how they handled the ending scenario (thinking “I would never do this. would someone really do this? aren’t they clearly fucking up?”). But once the credits rolled I was able to sit back and think about what the short story must have been about, verses what they chose to add in for the movie. And it struck me: this is actually a pretty cool story adaptation. They really went for it, and added a bunch of new interesting shit, trying to top the original scenario. Good for them!
-I also dig the strange “physically crippled” angle. I’m very curious to read the original now, because I’d bet it had none of that.
-I really loved the time period and style. How can you not adore the aesthetic of 1970’s NASA nerds deep within Langley? I also liked how it snuck up on you. Or me, at least. I don’t recall the time period being shoved in your face for quite some time. So you could actually spend 10 (maybe 20?) minutes being a little lost in a different time.
-That shot of weird water rings in the air tunnels struck me as “the director’s big moment to totally own his own bizarre image.” Which I think he did. totally own. Two bad they repeated that shot? Though i doubt people will appreciate it, or give this movie it’s due anyway. sigh.
-The scene with cameran diaz in the library (talking about love) was like nails on chalkboard for me. But maybe i am just not the sort of sappy sap who would eat those sentiments up. Or maybe the acting didn’t sell it? Or maybe the director didn’t use his actress? … still, i respect it as a weird scene that is an interesting thing to try and add to the original story. (the connection found between people with crippling disabilities). hmmz. I vaguely remember thinking the guy was getting his version of that annoying shit. but i can’t recall the details (so apparently it didn’t appall me in the same way).

I’m probably not saying enough here about the movie’s themes (well, it’s late and this is movie review practice). I think it was strongly based around the idea that your actions have consequences whether you want them to or not. Which is far too mature for most modern soft edged Americans. I think it also veers into “what are you willing to die for” (somehow I don’t think it really offered “what are you willing to kill for” despite that being the supposed setup. I think they did an interesting job on rushing through the initial dilemma, so you also feel rushed and overwhelmed by the other problems in their life.
I saw the move with my dear old mom, and there was no question in her mind that their life problems were caused by the baddies. And there was no doubt in my mind that they picked this guy and his wife because he was a frickin’ astronaut and she was an enlightened teacher who’d overcome a disability. (while we didn’t totally agree on these assumptions, i’m surprised how many reviews seem to think these threads were left hanging).
==========================END SPOILER TOWN

I’d been hoping this movie would settle whether Richard Kelly is something interesting or just a one hit wonder (maybe donnie was better because of all the people who helped push it through? I’ve heard it turned out good because it was taken away from the director by Drew Barrymore’s people and edited down. Vicious Slander?). I feel like i’m still on the fence. Which is probably a great sign. If he/they just makes things of The Box quality from now on, I’ll happily line up to see them all. I really think people aren’t embracing the notion that he’s succeeding in establishing his own strange space, in the unfair critiques I’ve read.
blah blah.


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