Blu-ray Review: Richard Kelly’s ‘The Box’

Warner Home Video has now released the DVD and Blu-ray for The Box, which stars Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, and Frank Langella. Extra material on the DVD release includes Richard Matheson: In His Own Words – An Intimate Interview with a Sci-Fi Legend featurette. The Blu-ray release will include that, along with a commentary by director Richard Kelly, featurettes (“The Box: Grounded in Reality”, “Visual Effects Revealed”), a Music Video Prequels feature, a digital copy, and a copy of the standard DVD.Check out a review below.The Film

Donnie Darko remains one of the strongest directorial debuts ever. Southland Tales ranks as one of the worst sophomore films ever. Writer/Director, Richard Kelly might very well be the most audacious filmmakers of this generation. His work is on the edge of either being a masterwork or flat-out disaster. Donnie Darko and Southland Tales definitely doesn’t lack in the originality department. They’re unlike anything projected onto the screen. His latest project, The Box, based on the Richard Matheson short story, Button, Button, continues that tradition. For starters…it’s certainly a step up from Southland Tales.

The Box is exceptionally well-crafted. The film reminds me, dare I say it, of Stanley Kubrick’s work, aesthetically. The 70’s time period is beautifully realized. The attention to even the tiniest detail makes for a captivating view alone. The score by Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, and Owen Pallett from brilliant Canadian band Arcade Fire is easily, one of the most effective soundtracks in recent memory. The three leads, James Marsden, Cameron Diaz and Frank Langella deliver strong performances. As the plot turns increasingly more and more bizarre, the cast never allows the film to collapse into a sea of unintentional humor. Their commitment to the material is probably The Box’s biggest asset. The film starts off as an involving thriller with a great morality tale lingering within. Unfortunately, Kelly can’t help but to leave it at that. Before you know it, the film transforms into a convoluted, if not pretentious science fiction picture right out of The Twilight Zone. Now, I love the classic television series as much as the next person but the inclusion of the sci-fi element in The Box just turned me away from the material that I was initially hooked right into. Once The Box arrives at its emotional climax, I was withdrawn from the characters and their grave dilemma.

What Kelly fails to accomplish here is the very thing that made Donnie Darko such a haunting and emotional experience. Still, I can’t find myself to fully condemn Kelly’s work since it contains some unforgettable imagery and concepts within. The Box is an undeniably fascinating piece of work.

6 out of 10

Video

The Box comes equipped with a VC-1/1080p transfer. While one may be discouraged by the film’s often soft look, it’s completely faithful to Kelly’s vision. The look stays true to the feel of the time period the story is set within. The detail and colorization is a bit muted but still very pleasing to the eye. The impressive CGI make-up effects on Langella’s face looks all the more shocking in 1080p. Also, contrast is spot on. This beautifully photographed picture has been given a subtly effective transfer.

8 out of 10

Audio

Good care has also been given to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. Dialogue comes across nice and clean. The sound design is mostly subdued but the surrounds are used to good atmospheric effect. The bass packs a surprising punch. Last and certainly not least, the mesmerizing score comes across every bit as rich and powerful as it should.

7 out of 10

Supplements

The highlight is the commentary by writer/director, Richard Kelly. He is rather engaging as he chronicles all aspects of the production and the differences from the source material. Kelly’s confidence in his vision and his deep understanding/connection to the material is instantly obvious. Thankfully, he stays rather ambiguous about his point of view of the material. Kelly insists that it’s up to each viewer’s perception.

The Box: Grounded in Reality (1080p, 10:42) is a short but above-average featurette focusing on the inspiration behind the lead characters. It features interviews with Kelly and his parents. It’s amazing how much of Kelly’s personal life was inserted into film. It’s intriguing, as it is touching.

Richard Matheson: In his own words (1080p, 4:54) is even shorter but still manages to be an engaging interview with the legendary writer. Pity he doesn’t get into more detail about the short story, let alone comment on his thoughts on the adaptation.

Visual Effects Revealed (1080p, 3:55) is made up of three mini featurettes accompanied by a commentary with the Visual Effects Editor, Dylan Highsmith. Like every feature on this disc, what it lacks in length, it makes up in substance.

Music Video Prequels (1080p, 9:14) is a bizarre but interesting collection of three videos, backed up by the terrific score.

7 out of 10

Final Thoughts

If you responded positively to Richard Kelly’s The Box, this Blu-Ray is a no-brainer. The transfer is first-rate and the special features are thoughtfully put together. While it’s neither the masterpiece nor the disaster that everyone passionately states, I found The Box to be an admirable failure. What I can say for certain; Kelly’s body of work is too interesting and fresh to be simply dismissed in one view alone. I’m sure I’ll be clashing with my opinion of The Box for years to come.

7 out of 10