Saturday December 26, 2009

Movie review: The Box (Richard Kelly)

Posted by Karthik

The Box is unquestionably one of the best films I’ve seen in 2009 – we still have 4 days left this year, but I’ve decided. Already.

If the thought of Heath ‘The Joker’ Ledger’s pulsating variant of Milgram’s experiment was exciting, The Box’s more intelligent, moral variant is intriguing. And absorbing. No, I’m not a fan of the rabbit-induced crimes of Donnie Darko, director Richard Kelly’s earlier smash, sleeper hit. But, in adapting Richard Matheson’s 70s Playboy short story, Kelly shows remarkable restraint in handling a nuanced narrative that never takes any shortcuts in providing filmy treats – its the old world, slow-steady charm that works really well here.

In reality, The Box’s script is straight out of Tamil writer Sujatha’s imagination – I clearly recall a short story by Sujatha where Yamraj takes on a more modern avatar since mortals seem to be shit scared of accompanying him…obviously. There are shades of that story even here, though it is only a smaller part of the film.

In The Box, the moral dilemma of the experiment is handled well enough, even though it is mildly trivialised to an obvious conclusion towards the end.

Cameron Diaz, looking alarmingly like Neytiri, even without make-up, seems like an odd choice for the 70s suburban wife, while James Marsden looks clueless for all the right reasons. The film builds itself slowly and holds its cards right till the end. The intrigue is maintained quite convincingly and beyond those misleading and mildly related clues thrown all across the narrative, it never quite loses focus of the core plot point.

The plot point is rather close to the Indian…nay, Hindu belief of Karma. And while the film’s version is a rather watered down idea of Karma, it sure fits in a movie’s perspective. There are enough explanations offered in the film that seem to suggest a logical/ scientific reason behind some of the more sinister activities in the plot, but they’re largely unconvincing – in a way, that only seems right, since the story stays on a more morally abstract level than delve into giving complicated scientific reasons.

The Box is a fantastic film who’s mysterious script involves you consistently – not many films can hold and maintain those furrowed brows till the end, these days!



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