In Black Box, Blumhouse asks us to confront questions that are commonly discussed in sci-fi stories: What elements make a person who they are? Do their memories mold them, or are they the choices they make on a daily basis?
In Black Box, Nolan Wright (portrayed by Mamoudou Athie) survived a car accident and woke up from a coma to learn that his wife passed away in the accident and that he’s suffering from a severe case of amnesia. We walk through the stress and isolation exasperated by the lingering trauma, especially as he tries to relearn his professional skills (his life as a photojournalist for a newspaper) and adjusting to his life as an unreliable father (straining his relationship with his young daughter). Nolan struggles watching her carry the weight on her shoulders of caring for him, and in a way both of her parents are gone from her life.
He swallows down the guilt as best he can, but he knows he’s still broken and he knows his progress has stalled… because even in the fragments he can collect of his old self, something is wrong. Because there’s something wrong in his memories. When he dreams, the bursts of memory of his previous life are disrupted as a creature pursues him.
Against his better judgement, he seeks help from Dr. Brooks (played by Phylicia Rashad) after some encouragement from his brother-in-law. She unveils how she’s helped many patients with severe memories issues through her mysterious Black Box technology. The Black Box has the capability to restore his memories through a VR experience, and Dr. Brooks uses hypnosis to unlock his subconscious. But the deeper he goes into his subconscious, the stronger the creature gets, too.
Black Box: My impression
Blumhouse is well known for bringing smaller stories to wider audiences, on a smart production budget. The film started a little slow for me, but it picked up when I found myself increasingly impressed (and stressed!) by Mamoudou Athie’s acting. He carries the movie through its paces, especially as Nolan’s predicament goes down some dark paths.
It also had a great Get Out feel with some of the “diving into the subconscious” bits, and my heart sunk into my stomach a few times at how trippy some sequences were.
All in all, I absolutely recommend a watch. Just be wary it starts a bit slow!