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Box, The


Stars: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella, James Rebhorn, Sam Oz Stone, Gillian Jacobs, Celia Weston, Holmes Osborne

Director: Richard Kelly

This is a sci-fi equivalent of Indecent Proposal. High-living suburban couple Diaz and Marsden receive a visit from a soft-spoken man (Langella) with half a face (an effect brilliantly realised and sustained). He's come to enlighten them about the box they've just received. If they press the red button in the middle, they get $1million - and someone unknown to them dies.

Events seem to conspire against them: Diaz loses her teaching job, and Marsden's application to be an astronaut is equally bafflingly refused. Even so, with his job as a NASA space engineer, you would have thought they had enough to get by.

It's not giving away plot secrets to say that Diaz pushes the button, and the million duly arrives. However, Marsden ignores the condition not to try to trace Langella, and retribution is just around the corner.

The problem is that the film, based on a short story, is very much a one-trick pony. and could also do with weightier dramatic actors than these two stars. It starts brightly enough but, in trying to rack it up to two hours, director Kelly, who made Donnie Darko, lets it get increasingly silly, losing the tightness of the original concept, as the couple are issued with dire warnings from people who get nosebleeds, then get followed around by groups of blank-faced extras.

There's a lot of twaddle about lightning bolts, messages from Mars and wall-less containers of foaming water which Marsden finds himself facing. 'There are three gateways,' he's told. 'But be careful which one you choose. For there is only one path to salvation.' You'll be hard pushed to believe any of this; your path to salvation is simple - give it a miss.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Icon (Warner Brothers). Colour by deluxe.
115 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 29 Nov 2009