Black Box Review – All Problems are Illusions of the Mind

Black Box

Frightmaster Jason Blum has teamed up with Amazon Studios to produce an anthology of films titled, Welcome to the Blumhouse. One of the first to be released is Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour’s Black Box. The film follows Nolan Wright (Mamoudou Athie), a news photographer who has recovered from a tragic car accident that has left him with amnesia and raising his daughter as a widow. As he struggles to pick up the pieces left behind from the accident, he connects with a neuro doctor (Phylicia Rashad) to help regain his memories through the use of an experimental neurological device. Yet his hidden memories contain secrets that he might not be ready to face.

The premise of Black Box might be something you see in Netflix’s Black Mirror anthology series as the story blends technology and the human condition together. With Black Box, Osei-Kuffour explores the compelling themes of consciousness and second chances. The exploration of the complex layers of the human mind has been done plenty of times before, but Black Box brings a compelling and intelligent twist to the genre. Osei-Kuffour’s slick storytelling through the mind of someone reliving his memories keeps you glued to the screen. 

Through these establishing scenes, Osei-Kuffour comes up with more than a few disturbing moments. Brandon Roberts’ unsettling score and cinematographer Hilda Mercado’s camerawork and lighting add to the uneasiness of Nolan’s mind. Despite the horrifying blurred faces and contorted bone-breaking creature, the film becomes less distinctive as it transitions into a psychological thriller.

Black Box - Phylicia Rashad and Mamoudou Athie

It’s clear that as the film progresses that there’s a dark secret in play here. Black Box unveils the secret piece-by-piece to where it hooks you until its eventual reveal. The film, at this point, becomes a film that revolves around the theme of second chances. It’s just unfortunate that Black Box loses steam at this point. The film gives its twist away far too soon, which is part of the problem. The reveal occurs with a lot of time left and leaves us with no further surprises. The entire horror element and uneasiness simply dissipates.

However, the film relies heavily on the emotional connection built up before the reveal. It’s during that time that you instantly feel for him because of his condition and trying hard to acclimate to his life. At the same time, his daughter heroically helps his father regain a sliver of normalcy because of her neverending love for him.

Mamoudou Athie brings remarkable depth to the role, as he’s able to go from sympathetic character to something completely opposite once the tonal shift happens. He commands and deserves your attention whenever he’s onscreen. Amanda Christine is also stellar as Ava, who is the heart and soul of the film. As she tries to become Nolan’s anchor throughout, you can see the wonderful father/daughter dynamic that should melt any heart. Acting vet Phylicia Rashad has the gravitas to play Lillian.

Overall, Black Box is a pretty compelling look at the themes of human consciousness and second chances, as told through a techno-thriller lens. Don’t get it twisted, though, Black Box is not a horror film. Regardless, this psychological thriller is a great warm-up for spooky Halloween.

Rating: 3.5/5 atoms

Black Box is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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