The Box

Movie review by Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Box Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 15+

Creepy thriller too confusing for kids, awful for adults.

PG-13 2009 115 minutes

Parents say

age 13+

Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 12+

Based on 33 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

A bit confused!

What I got out of the movie is, Arlington Steward is trying to complete psychological and scientific experiment with employees and family members from NASA. The scientific portion of the movie, the Gateway and how it was created is very confusing. There is a lesson to be learned a moral aspect and consequences and sacrifices that will be made for money, even if it costs another human their life. There was only one four letter word used in the movie. Very little sex, just passionate kissing one time. I think it will be too confusing for a child under the age of 13 to 15 years of age. It was a quite interesting movie but the complexity of the Gateway that was created Buy Arlington Stewart has still left me a little fuzzy.
age 13+

Too ambitious for it's own good... but fascinating.

This is certainly one of the most polarizing mainstream films that comes to mind thinking about the last decade in movies. It really is a case of love it or hate it, and everyone's opinion always seems to include a few caveats; be they redeeming qualities or shortfalls. This is by no means a perfect or even particularly well executed movie from a production standpoint. The main reason I enjoyed this film as much as I did was because of how ambitious the concept is; adapting a classic sci-fi story (originally written for an episode of The Twilight Zone, and subsequently published as a short story in major publications like Playboy, as well as various compilation books) into a relatively big budget film can't have been an easy sell to the financiers. Such ventures often are destined to fail miserably (See the adaptation of Philip K. Dick's "Paycheck" for an example of a phenomenal sci-fi story absolutely butchered on screen.). This could have easily done so. Therein lies the rub for me. This film was never going to be an excellent display of narrative or aesthetic... not in the mainstream market. The film is often choppy. The way it's structured is counterintuitive at best and just plain hokey at worst. But I could see this being a whole lot worse than I found it to be. By virtue of this being a wide theater release, I get a very strong impression that the screenplay was written in such a way that gives it's audience little to no credit. Nothing is really left to the imagination; and for a psychological thriller dealing with grand metaphysical and all encompassing ethical themes, that is usually a dealbreaker; for me at least. So now I'll explain why I like this movie in spite of all of that. Somehow; it worked for me. The core concept is in my opinion so incredibly strong, and relatively unencumbered with unnecessary twists and gimmicks, that one can look past the many failures in style and pacing. The idea carries this movie. I didn't find myself much caring about any character in particular... but see, I don't think that's the point of this movie. At least it wasn't for me. I wasn't bothered by the fact that I was utterly uninterested in the fates of the main characters. Sure, I rooted for certain outcomes, but there was exactly zero emotional involvement. In a unique way, that actually enhanced my experience watching this movie. It allowed me to focus on the ramifications of the "experiment", if you will, depicted in the film. I hear many complaints about the ending. Without going into explicit detail, I can see why people are underwhelmed by it... but I found it satisfying because it was made very clear upon the film's conclusion that the last two or so hours of drama I'd seen was just one rotation in a much grander cycle in the world depicted on screen. To depict an insignificant arc of a few people, and simultaneously to put emphasis on the whole rather than the part is what saves this movie. It's not about the characters at all; it's about humanity as a whole. it's a study of fate, greed, selflessness and ethics in general on an enormous scale. As for the ideal audience for this piece... This film will certainly go right over the heads of younger viewers. Pre-teens and younger will probably be more bored than frightened; there is very little that is graphic or visually frightening about this movie, and pretty much nothing in the way of sexual content. However, the Kafkaesque concept is (and needs to be, for the sake of the movie) unsettling to those old enough to understand it. The message this film delivers is inherently totally subjective. Some will come out feeling it dwells on and celebrates the greed that human beings are often so prone to, others will see this as a display of human yearning, curiosity, and our collective willingness to make sacrifices in pursuit of advancing as a species. I'm more inclined to the latter of the two sides, but nothing about this films' message is black and white. Give it a shot. I think people railroad this movie because of the lack of character development, and the sometimes corny aesthetic it has. But it is not without it's charm. And if you're one of those who does enjoy it; it will give you a lot to think about long after you've switched off your receiver. Soft four out of five for me.

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