In The Box, Mr. Arlington Steward arrives at the Lewis residence with an odd gift: a polished wooden box topped with a bright red button.
Mr. Steward proposes a test: over the next twenty-four hours, if you can refrain from pushing the button, you’ll get one hundred dollars for your time. On the other hand, if you do press the button, you’ll get one million dollars — and one person (“Someone you don’t know,” Mr. Steward assures you) will die.
Much of what follows — a crazy-quilt plot involving parties, kidnappings, nosebleeds, mind control, Viking landers, and liquid-cooled inter-dimensional doorways — has one real purpose: to keep the audience unbalanced and off-center long enough for the film to pry open their skulls and make its point: every choice has consequences.
Very few of us admit, at least at first, that we are the sort of people who would push the button. We are too civilized, we say, to be so easily swayed by simple greed. The idea of taking one million dollars in exchange for a human life is repulsive to us.
But from a certain perspective, all of us push the button every day.
What if the low, low prices we enjoy at WalMart are made possible by child labor? On one level, we know this is true … but on the other, well, these are people we don’t know. And so: we push the button.
What if our "recycled" electronic gadgets are shipped to China, where they are dumped in poverty-stricken villages in exchange for cash? We see stories on t.v. about poisoned villages where thousands of people suffer cancer and deformity — but on the other hand, well, these are people we don’t know. And so: we push the button.
Closer to home: you’re already a little overweight. That plate of pasta you ordered was more than enough to satisfy you. And now, the waiter offers you a slice of cake. In some corner of your mind, you know that obesity is linked to cancer and high blood pressure… but on the other hand, you won’t know that tortured, pain-wracked, disabled version of yourself for another couple of decades. And so: you push the button.
Every choice has consequences. Every choice matters.
This is an extremely uncomfortable truth, so I don’t expect The Box — with its unblinking focus on where thoughtless action takes us — will prove to be very popular with holiday movie-goers. But for those willing to confront the questions this movie raises, there are powerful revelations ahead: from the path to redemption for those of us who have pushed the button … to a blueprint for a mindset that can keep you from pushing the button again.