Black Box‘ thrillingly takes us deep inside the world of black box analyzing. Like a mysterious puzzle straight out of The Da Vinci Code, this grounded aerospace thriller doesn’t hold back when it comes to revealing the truth behind whistleblowing, corporate conspiracies and how far people are willing to go to cover/uncover the truth.

When a brand-new aircraft on its way from Dubai to Paris crashes, Mathieu (Pierre Niney – ‘Promise at Dawn‘), one of the best black box analysts available, is assigned the task of finding out what happened. Before he gets the chance to properly investigate, the case is dismissed. Something or someone is pushing back, which only makes Mathieu even more suspicious. Going against the orders of his superiors and risking his career and relationship, he becomes more and more entangled in a web of lies and cover-ups while his mental health is being tested as his investigation goes deeper than he ever could’ve imagined.

Director Yann Gozlan‘s hair-rising film grabs your attention within seconds as the camera moves through the Atrian 800, until we’re in the tail of the plane where the black box is situated and hear the horrible but distorted sound of metal hitting the Alps. The rest of the film plays like a Snowden-affair in which Mathieu channels Hannibal‘s Will Graham in trying to mentally picture himself right in the middle of the action to figure out what exactly happened inside the aircraft that day, while tracing and dissecting every little alteration in the recording of that horrible event. This doesn’t go without setbacks from his wife who’ll soon be working with the company that just lost one of its aircrafts.

Part of the thrill comes from the sound analysis, in which “blanks” get filled in by phantom sounds, or are they? Sound is a major player in ‘Black Box‘ and often sets up a twist that keeps shifting the plot towards a shocking revelation. The director knows perfectly how to use sound in his advantage pulling the viewer in and making us feel as if we’re part of the investigation, without ever undermining our intelligence. Niney’s nuanced tranquil performance is an interesting choice but necessary to make everything seem more relatable even though we’re playing in a field not much is known about. The rest of the cast is admirable and leave an impression in their own unique way.

The writers take their time to tell a story that never bores and balance thrills with genuine human emotions. Conspiracies diligently unravel through soaring sound design and legitimate suspense, making Black Box easily one of the most elevated French thrillers I’ve ever seen.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

BLACK BOX will screen at Alliance Française French Film Festival 2021. Tickets for screenings in Sydney between March 4 and March 29 are available HERE

AF French Film Festival 2021 Review – ‘Black Box’ (Boîte noire)

Reviewed online (screener provided by StudioCanal – also screening at Alliance Française French Film Festival 2021), February 26, 2021. Rating: M. Running time: 130 min.

PRODUCTION: A StudioCanal release of a 2425 Films, Wy Productions, France 2 Cinéma, StudioCanal production. Producers: Wassim Béji, Thibault Gast, Matthias Weber.

CREW: Director: Yann Gozlan. Screenplay: Nicolas Bouvet, Yann Gozlan, Jérémie Guez, Simon Moutairou. Editing: Valentin Féron.

CAST: PIERRE NINEY, LOU DE LAÂGE, ANDRÉ DUSSOLLIER, SÉBASTIEN POUDEROUX, OLIVIER RABOURDIN.

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