You take delivery of a box at 5:45am. In side is a button and a note saying “Mr. Steward will be calling at 5pm”. At 5pm a guy with half a face knocks on your door and tells you…”push the button and two things will happen, someone you don’t know will die, and you will receive a million dollars”. Then he leaves…what would you do?
Arthur (Marsden) and Norma (Diaz) are a relatively normal, yet hard up couple (One is a teacher and one works NASA….that’s normal right?), so when this offer comes to Norma, she really takes the time to mull the offer over, while Arthur who wasn’t home when Mr. Steward (Langella) visited, thinks that it is all a bit far fetched doesn’t take the offer seriously at first.
While she mulls over the offer the viewers see Norma at work in the school, she is teaching the class about Satre, and one of the students asks her why she has a limp. She ends up showing the class her disfigured foot. She then finds out that teachers discounts for students attending the school have been cut, therefore she will no longer be able to afford to send her highly intellengent and annoyingly inquisitive son there. As the head master tells her this, his nose starts to bleed.
We then see Arthur at work at NASA doing NASAry type stuff, when the news comes in that he has not managed to achieve becoming an astronaut as he failed the psychological test… even though he swears he has passed it.
At home they start to discuss the box again, and Arthur takes the box apart to see what is in side, but he finds nothing inside the box…no tracking device, nothing, which again leads him to feel that the offer is a farce, and he says that he wants to call the police. Norma stops him saying that the offer will be off the table if he does.
When it comes to saying that she will have to postpone surgery on her foot…Arthur tells her to push the button jokingly, and eventually she does, impulsively, before Arthur can talk her out of it. As promised, Mr. Steward arrives with a million dollars in cash he takes the button and leaves, not before Arthur tries to give him the money back. At the same time the button is pressed a man, miles away shoots his wife at point blank ranges and feels, leaving his daughter locked in the bathroom. Police are perplexed, as Jeffery, the man who shot his wife had a seemingly happy marriage.
At Norma’s sisters wedding rehearsal, Arthur wins a chance to select a gift (odd I know) and sees a plain brown package and selects that. Inside is a picture of Mr. Steward before he lost half his face. Norma is asked to take a phone call, by a guy whose nose starts to bleed, and it is Steward on the phone, and he is asking why Arthur has requested the police run his number plate. He warns Norma that he has employees everywhere. Arthur punches the kid who humiliated Norma at school, and they leave.
As Arthur drives the baby sitter home, she tells him that she is living in a motel as he family is moving but the new house isn’t ready yet, but as they drive she starts to ramble, telling Arthur to look in to the light (No it’s not poltergeist). Her nose begins to bleed and she passes out. As he tries to find something with her actual address on it, he finds her ID which has a different name on it, she suddenly wakes up and rushes off, telling him he isn’t safe there.
Norma is approached in the supermarket by a women who was at a press conference with Arthur, she tells Norma to look up a call number at the library, she then promptly passes out with a nose bleed.
At the same time Arthur is told that the licence plate of Stewards car is registered to NSA. Arthur gets to visit the home where Jefferynkilled his wife and he finds a picture of Steward, along with a Human Resources exploitation manual and another call number which needs to be looked up at the library.
Now this is where the film takes an unexpected turn. Norma and Arthur visit the library at the same time but separately. Norma finds a film reel of Steward, and Arthur finds a book, but is followed by an army of “Employees” which leads him to Stewards wife. She offers him a choice of three gateways which are made of upright cubes of water. She tells him one offers salvation, where the other two offer eternal damnation. He chooses the second gateway and is bathed in light.
At the same time, Norma is led to Steward, who talks to her and he asks her what she felt when he first saw him…she says love and he softens. We find out that Steward was disfigured when he was struck by lightening. As she takes his hand she falls asleep. Waking in her own bed with Arthur hovering in a cube of water above her. The water disburses and soaks Norma, dropping Arthur to the floor and flooding the house.
They are both in shock and they prepare for Norma’s sisters wedding.
Over at the NSA the chief and Arthur’s boss from NASA discuss Steward, and we find out that after he was struck by lightening, he was pronounced dead, but they heard him laughing in the morgue. His body had supernaturally regenerated. We then see the NSA chief and Steward discussing the box and button. Steward is now working for a higher being and the box and button is a test of humanity. If more people choose not to push the button, earth will remain as it is, but as more people choose to push the button, earths chances are growing slim.
At the wedding, thier son is kidnapped. Arthur is forced to leave at gun point by Jeffery, who explains he had to make the choice to kill his wife after she pushed the button to save his daughter from a life time of torture. He tells Arthur he knows where they have taken his son and they have to save him or Norma will die, but they are stopped by a guy dressed in a santa costume and thier car is hit by a truck knocking them unconscious.
Arthur and Norma arrive home, to find Steward sat at their kitchen table. They ask where their son is, and Steward offers them a final choice. Their son has been blinded and deafened, they can choose to live with their son like that for the rest of their lives, or Arthur can shoot Norma through the heart at point blank range, and as Norma’s soul leaves her body their sons sight and hearing will return. On Norma’s death the one million dollars will be placed in a trust fund for the son which he will get when he turns 18. Steward then leaves, telling them their son is locked in the bathroom.
We see the son slopping about in the bathroom, unable to see and hear. The couple try to break down the door, but ultimately Norma decides that she can’t live to see her son like this, so Arthur shoots her.
A neighbour calls the police and they arrive just as Arthur discovers that his son can once again hear. The police take Arthur away and he is left in the care of his grandfather.
As the film ends we another women pressing the button (Supposedly the button pressed for Norma to die), and Steward turn up at the house to deliver the million dollars. So the test of humanity continues.
I actually really enjoyed this film. It was unpredictable and a bit weird, but what more can you expect from the director who created Donnie Darko?
Set in the 70s the period of the piece is kept well, with a lot or orange and cubic wall paper. It did take me a little while to get my head around the turns in the plot, but if you’re looking for something a bit different, jump on to Netflix now…