THE BOXUnited States-2009

Frank Langella as Arlington Steward

James Rebhorn as Norm Cahill

Written for the screen and directed by Richard Kelly

Based on the short story “Button, Button” by Richard Matheson

There’s no doubt that The Box is one of those ‘what would you do’ films. A couple, financially struggling, is given the gift of an ordinary wooden box with a red button covered by a glass dome. When they are called upon by the enigmatic Arlington Steward they are given a choice; push the button and they will receive tax free, one million dollars. But we all know that if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. The catch for Norma and Arthur Lewis is that when they push that button, not only will they be set for life, but that someone, whom they do not know, will die. The intrigue of the film is a promising one. The Box is based on a story by the legendary Richard Matheson. I never read the original story, ‘Button, Button’, so I don’t know how much of the original material was retained for the film. I really don’t think it was very much; what begins as an interesting premise bogs down at the end in what amounts to a lot of sci-fi mumbo-jumbo.

That doesn’t mean The Box doesn’t have its merits. As I said before, the film is a ‘what would you do’ film. The Box is not just a test for the characters; it is also a test for the audience. Are you willing to be successful at the cost of someone else’s life? Let’s take that down a notch. Are you willing to be successful at the cost of someone else’s job? How about their marriage or their own happiness; are you willing to take that from them? I believe we would all like to think we would say ‘no’ and send Arlington Steward and his box out the door; but until the time actually arrives we can never be sure.


This marks the first feature-length film scored by members of the Canadian band Arcade Fire (Win Butler, Régine Chassagne and Owen Pallett)

The number “13” is referenced at least four times. The first time is at the beginning of the movie, with the shot of the Lewis’ bedroom clock, which shows 5:44 a.m., the digits of which amount to “13”. The second reference is Mr. Steward’s car, the license plate number of which is “XH34-568”. The letters “X” and “H” are the 24th and 8th numbers of the alphabet, respectively. Twenty-four plus eight equals 32. Thirty-two plus the other numbers on the license plate (3, 4, 5, 6, and 8) totals 58; 5 plus 8 totals to “13”. The third reference is the time of death of the woman who was shot in the chest, whose husband works at Langley, or at least the time the “neighbor’s heard the shot,” which is 4:45 p.m.( 4+4=8, 8+5=13). Finally, the fourth reference is the Lewis’ home address, the numbers of which are “7321”; 7 plus 3 plus 1 plus 2 totals “13”.

The main characters, Norma Lews and Arthur Lewis, are based on director Richard Kelly’s parents. His mother also suffered a crippled foot after a X-Ray mishap; his father worked for NASA and co-designed the camera used on the Viking Mars Landers (as in the movie).