Movie Review: Black Box (2020)

Black Box (dir. Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, 2020) – An amnesiac attempts a new therapy in hopes of reconnecting with his family, only to uncover unwanted secrets in his past.

4/5

Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) sees a hole in the wall. Except he doesn’t remember punching it. The rage doesn’t feel familiar to him, but he hasn’t been feeling like himself for a while now. Months ago, a horrific car accident has left him without any of his memories. He wakes up to a life he has never known and struggles to reconnect with his daughter Ava (Amanda Christine).

When he finds out about an experimental treatment that may recover his past, he takes the chance. He allows Dr Lillian Brooks (Phylicia Rashad) to hypnotise him through untested technology, only to draw out a contorting entity that attempts to strangle him in his dreams.

Sinking deep into the dark recesses of his broken mind, Black Box conjures haunting nightmares out of this dreadful creature that lurk in disorienting pieces of his memories. Director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr knows every page of the horror playbook. His faceless monster folds its body in impossible ways, writhing on all fours towards a terrified Nolan.

Black Box
“Hypnosis is so easy, you can do it with your eyes closed.”

As much as the horror is present, where we are headed is closer to the high-tech dystopia of Black Mirror than The Further of Insidious. It is here where things get more fascinating than the regular movie hellscape. As he keeps returning to scenes in his vague memories, he finds more courage to stand up to the ghastly ghoul that sheds its shadow, bit by bit.

Just what – or who – is it? The answer is complicated. It may in fact have to do with that dormant anger in him. Leading him to what he fears to see, the creature forces him to confront his darker side. Could he really be capable of such sins? Is he simply not willing to accept who he truly is? Technology stands between Nolan and his memories, leaving him uncertain whether they belong to him.

Black Box
“Don’t leave me hanging, kid.”

Excellent central performances make every bit of Nolan’s growing despair palpable. It is heartbreaking to see how he becomes no longer able to trust himself, especially with his daughter, the only one who is still holding out hope for him. This heart of the story is what keeps the third act compelling and emotional, despite an early reveal of what is truly happening.

These answers may fall into our grasp sooner than we would have thought, but the twist is of little importance. The stakes remain high for the sympathetic father-daughter pair whom we grow to love. The mind-bending Black Box urges us to follow the dangerous path that they must tread to find a resolution – and the only way out is through.


Inspired thriller Black Box ticks all the boxes of a compelling sci-fi film, marking an inventive and exciting directorial debut for Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour.

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