James Marsden and Cameron Diaz as 'the couple'
However, the NYT review itself was more nuanced and the premise is intriguing: you're an American middle class couple (husband an optical engineer at NASA, wife an English teacher) a little short of money when one day you are visited by an enigmatic stranger. He hands you a box with a big red button on top. If you don't touch it, nothing; if you press the red button someone in the world who you don't know will die and you will get a million dollars (this was set in 1976). You have 24 hours to decide.
Obviously Cameron Diaz is going to press the button otherwise there's no story. But I thought they would string out what little tension there was for the whole 2 hour movie - all the button-pushing action and inevitable consequence would constitute the denouement.
I couldn't have been more wrong: the button gets pushed early and we're whirled into a fantastical trajectory of alien ethical judgements on humanity, altruism tests, advanced technologies, NSA conspiracies, life as purgatory and terrible personal dilemmas.
The plotting is a mess: it's like all the plot points I just itemised were put into a blender and then delivered to the scriptwriters: go write! But it was just weird enough to keep me interested. Clare thought it was rubbish, BTW.
Afterwards I remembered where I had last seen Ms Diaz: wasn't she that hot chick in Starship Troopers back in 1997? (Answer: no, that would be Dina Meyer).