Directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour.
Starring Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashad, Amanda Christine.
Science-Fiction, US, 100 minutes, certificate 15.


Streaming on Amazon Prime from 6th October.


Suffering from amnesia after an accident that also claimed the life of his wife, Nolan is struggling to raise his young daughter whilst dealing with his neurological issues. Undertaking a technology aided hypnotic course to help sort out his severe amnesia to get his life back on track for the sake of his own daughter as much as for himself, he soon finds himself questioning his own memories as they seem to conflict with what he thought and has been told about his own past.


The second of four films from Blumhouse that are being released exclusively on Amazon Prime for this Halloween season this low-key science-fiction tale is the feature length debut of director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour. The script, co-written with Wade Allain-Marcus and Stephen Herman, patiently tells its story managing to keep its cards close to its chest. However, while it does not fumble in its storytelling it fails to rise to the heights of the films it emulates and recalls.


Naming your protagonist Nolan in a film that deals with memory loss and technology that accesses dream like mindscapes is sure to draw comparisons to a certain blockbuster director.  The Hans Zimmer like score furthers this similarity robbing the film of its own real identity, which is ironic considering the films subject matter.


BLACK BOX would be better served as an episode of a BLACK MIRROR or TWILIGHT ZONE type show. Running close to one hundred minutes it comes perilously close to losing the viewers’ attention even after its mysterious and clever story beats have been revealed. There are a number of other similarities to other more distinctive films that have also recently taken a look at the theme of identity. Nolan’s hypnotic launchpad will remind viewers of The Sunken Place from GET OUT whilst the technology and films third act are reminiscent of the superior and lower budgeted EMPATHY INC, a film that accomplished much more in terms of style and storyline than this does.


Performance wise the film carries itself more successfully. Mamoudou Athie is naturalistic throughout whilst Phylicia Rashad manages to bring a warmth and extra dimension to the role of the scientist who is all too willing to help out Nolan. It is a role that manages to avoid the cliches of the sinister scientist who appears all too often in this type of film although the worn-out cliché of the young daughter who is wise beyond her years is present in the character of Nolan’s daughter Ava, played by the otherwise engaging Amanda Christine.


For a film that deals primarily with the subject of memory it is perhaps a tad ironic that it is doubtful that it will actually linger long in the memory of any of its viewers. Perhaps Osei-Kuffour has got the films that have so obviously influenced this out of his system and his next feature will carry its own distinct personality and storyline.


Iain MacLeod.


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