We all know people who do it. Maybe we are even guilty of it ourselves—being a button pusher that is. For most button pushers, it is enough satisfaction just to raise another person’s ire or frustration level. But what if the payoff for actually depressing a red-colored knob was even bigger. What if that insignificant action would net you $1,000,000?
When a small wooden box (with a red-colored knob) is left on the doorstep of Arthur (James Marsden) and Norma (Cameron Diaz) Lewis, it seems like a dream come true for the married couple. Arthur has just been rejected by NASA’s astronaut program and is making only a meager income at the Langley Research Center. Norma is also facing cutbacks at the private high school where she teaches. There is no question the money would go a long way to better their lives. Unfortunately, there is one hitch to the offer.
Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), the man behind the proposal, ensures them that pressing the button will make the cold hard cash all theirs. But it also means someone, an individual they don’t know, will die as a result.
Faced with an extraordinary moral dilemma, the couple has only 24 hours to make a decision that forces them to consider their own humanity as well as the desire they have to provide for themselves and their son Walter (Sam Oz Stone). However, Arthur and Norma soon discover that the consequences for their choice, whichever it is, are beyond their control. And what initially seemed like an answer to prayers, suddenly feels more like Pandora’s Box.
The script, based on a short story by Richard Matheson, raises a number of soul-searching quandaries, including what we are willing to do for money and how we view those with deformities or handicaps. More importantly, it questions the value we place on human life, not just ours but mankind in general.
While the movie offers some compelling moments, along with a few jump scenes, it tends to wander off into sequences that feel more like time fillers than progressive storyline. Introducing a horde of secondary, speechless characters, the film also leaves some unresolved plot holes by the time the credits roll.
Set among the tinsel and trim of the Christmas season, there is nothing jolly or joyous about this screenplay that contains depictions of murder, blood and disregard for others. Given the more benevolent nature of the season, The Box is one package many parents may prefer to leave unopened.