Twelve in a Box

twelve in a box

I suspect most viewers will be watching this movie because Miranda Hart features prominently in promotional materials. Unfortunately, that makes up the bulk of her appearance. She is on screen for no more than five minutes as a harried fiancée and spends most of that time bundled away in a locked room, out of sight from the titular twelve characters, themselves prisoners on an isolated estate.

The film is a classic locked box character study. Twelve people, all graduates of the same school, are summoned to a mansion for what they think is a reunion. They quickly learn that their host is a dying millionaire who wants to bequeath his fortune to his fellow alumni. The catch – no one may leave the premises for 96 hours, including anyone who may wander onto the grounds, lest everyone lose their share and the money is donated to furry animals.

Priorities are tested as people try to convince themselves and each other to stay. The allure of a quick and cool £1 million is enough for most of them to forgo all plans for the next four days. Barry has to tell his fiancée (Hart) that he’ll be a no-show at their wedding. Julie and Adam figure that shirking their parental responsibilities will be fine as long as the grandparents are around. And Brian, who isn’t even a graduate but just the husband of one, risks ruining an important business deal months in the making. There’s some questionable mental and spiritual gymnastics going on as well. Alice, a devout Christian, has no trouble coming up with reasons why God would want her to take the money.

Some of the characters get lost in the mix, but there are enough wacky personalities to keep the story tumbling from one scenario to the next. Agreeing to stay put for 96 hours is one thing; putting up with each other for that amount of time is another. Within the first few hours, one of the party drops dead and is unceremoniously stuffed into a freezer. Then, as cabin fever sets in, a number of guests engage in affairs, leading to some deadly consequences.

There’s a good amount of black humor, which is appropriate for a movie about how far people will go for money. Comedian Katy Wix leads a cast that proves you don’t need big stars or even cameos to pull off good stories. The production quality does make it feel like you’re sitting in on a film student’s thesis project, but if you allow yourself to get over that prejudice, you’ll find a clever and carefully stitched script. The dialogue meanders at times, but the story is packed with enough material to push things along to tense and funny ending.

Released: 2007
Prod: Bruce Windwood
Dir: John McKenzie
Writer: John McKenzie
Cast: Kenneth Collard, Katy Wix, Belle Mary Hithersay, Brian Mitchell, Glynne Steele, Jane Mcdowell, Miranda Hart, Ed Bennett
Time: 93 min
Lang: English
Country: United Kingdom
Reviewed: 2016