A car crash took two things from Nolan Wright: his memory and his wife. With his memory damaged, he cannot remember the past and simple things everyone else in the world take for granted elude him. The damage done to him now threatens to have his young daughter, Ava, taken from him when he forgets to pick her up at school one time too many.
Ava, at ten-years-old, steps in as a kind of handler for her dad and, in the process, becomes a parent to him and herself. Nolan knows this is no kind of life for his daughter, or any child, and she shouldn’t be saddled with such responsibilities. In an effort to keep his daughter and to help improve both their lives, he volunteers for an experimental neurological procedure.
At the hospital where he was treated directly after his car accident, he finds help and understanding in the form of Dr. Lilian Brooks. After the wreck, Nolan was brain dead for a short span of time and it impaired certain parts of his brain. Brooks believes the investigative work she’s been doing (which involves the device of the title) will help to repair Nolan’s memory. There’s always the chance it won’t work, but he is willing to do anything for his daughter.
With any experimental medical research, there are always possible side effects. Dr. Brooks’ study is no different. Nolan’s memory improves, but he begins to see things, to have memories, which are foreign to him. He has memories of people he does not know, such as a woman and a little girl, and he comes to the conclusion that he’s hiding a secret from himself which could be the key to his full recovery.
Nolan begins to investigate himself and his own past, he even tracks down the woman he’s been having flashes of in his head. Haunting him the entire way is…something. A distorted, faceless someone, actually. The closer Nolan gets to the truth of his visions, the closer the menacing shadow figure gets to him.
To paraphrase Motörhead, the chase is better than the catch. A lot of filmmakers have built some stellar careers based on that way of thinking, and everyone from Hitchcock to Shyamalan is guilty of it at some point or another (Kubrick pretty much only made The Shining because he needed some box office gold). First-time director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Jr. (he also co-wrote the script) knows this and has filled his movie with some great investigative chasing. Black Box pulsates with emotion and intrigue and feels so fresh as if it invented the few tropes it tosses off.
I enjoy good science run amok stories and this one put me in mind of Michael Crichton’s work. This is like 21st Century Crichton stuff here, but that’s not to say the movie doesn’t have it’s own identity, it does. Black Box is its own stylish, horrific beast of excellence. And any time Phylicia Rashad (the mom from The Cosby Show) plays someone who may be of dubious intentions, you know it’s gonna be good.