Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Black Box Review: A Well Acted Mind Trip

Mamoudou Athie	...	Nolan Phylicia Rashad	Phylicia Rashad	...	Lillian Amanda Christine	Amanda Christine	...	Ava Tosin Morohunfola	Tosin Morohunfola	...	Gary Charmaine Bingwa	Charmaine Bingwa	...	Miranda Donald Elise Watkins	Donald Elise Watkins	...	Thomas (as Donald Watkins) Troy James	Troy James	...	Backwards Man

Release date: October 6, 2020
Running time: 101 minutes
Starring: Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashad, Amanda Christine, Tosin Morohunfola, Charmaine Bingwa, and Troy James 
Directed By: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr. 

Welcome to the Blumhouse is a seasonal horror event by Amazon and Blumhouse that is releasing four horror movies during October in two waves.  Black Box is part of the first wave of movies, and chronicles a father who lost his wife and memory in a horrible car accident.  Nolan (Athie), after growing frustrated with his predicament and lack of progress, undergoes an agonizing experimental treatment that causes him to question who he really is.

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Black Box starts off with bits and pieces and leaves much of the story up to mystery.  But that is by design as we slowly learn about Nolan, his family, and his predicament.  The film is completely made by Mamoudou Athie, whose strong performance carries this film.  He has to deal with a lot of very difficult emotions as he tries to discover more about himself and does so convincingly.  He also shows flashes of what made him so enjoyable to see in Uncorked earlier this year, showing a softer, relatable persona.  And newcomer Amanda Christine as his daughter Ava is a breath of fresh air.  Her character is so much fun to see and her looks are so filled with innocence and love that it instantly causes you to connect with these characters.  It is also fun to see her in her "parent" role, since she has to take on a lot of responsibility in the household. 

Black Box has an interesting use of technology that is relatively simple but looks convincing enough.  Thankfully the film didn't go all out and try to use unnecessary effects to push it to ridiculousness.  And my favorite part is that there is a character that moves in a very interesting way that was fully done with acting and not CG.  That type of character could, and likely would, have been done using computer effects, but thanks to director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, we have a believable and unsettling sequence.  And the story of Black Box builds like any great mystery, slowly revealing more and more as Nolan delves deeper and deeper into the black box.  The film has plenty of reveals which cause Nolan and his family to deal with changing scenarios and the resultant strong emotions.  And the film handles all of these changes and experiences with a deliberate pace.  It never felt like it was throwing too much at you, but also always felt like you were finding out more to the mystery.  And the movie should be applauded for its all black cast in roles of prominence and depiction of a strong familial unit.  Overall, Black Box is an enjoyable mystery that is interesting and never feels overwhelming.  

Black Box takes you on a technological deep dive with strong characters led by the amazing Mamoudou Athie, an intriguing story, and a mental mystery that will keep you guessing.  

Watch it.

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Black Box is available to stream on Amazon Prime starting October 6, 2020.

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