(director/writer: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour; screenwriter: teleplay by Stephen Herman; cinematographer: Hilda Mercado; editor: Glenn Garland; music: Brandon Roberts; cast: Mamoudou Athie (Nolan), Phylicia Rashad (Dr Lillian Brooks), Amanda Christine (Ava), Najah Bradley (Rachel), Tosin Morohunfola (Gary), Charmaine Bingwa (Miranda), Donald Watkins (Thomas), Troy James (Backwards Man), Nyah Marie Johnson (Ashley), Han Soto (Dr Reed); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Brister; Amazon Prime; 2020)
“It’s an amnesia film that forgot to tell us how it ends.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Black Box is one of four TV movies released by Blumhouse producer Jeff Blum on Amazon Prime under the label ‘Welcome to Blumhouse’. Director-writer Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, in his feature film after directing shorts, presents this interesting but uneven sci-fi drama–a film that runs out of imagination after a solid beginning. It’s based on the story and teleplay by Stephen Herman. The director’s family has roots in Ghana, but he was born in America and he graduated from the NYU film school. It should be noted that most of the cast is Black-American.
Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) is a road accident victim in which his reporter wife (Najah Bradley), who works for the same paper the photographer does, was killed and his memory has been compromised. Months later he is still receiving medical treatment for his memory loss that isn’t working. Because of his memory problems, the authorities are threatening to take away his adolescent daughter Ava (Amanda Christine), as he neglects to take her to school on time. His doctor friend (Tosin Morohunfola) recommends he get radical treatment for his memory loss from a controversial neurologist. Nolan thereby becomes a patient of Dr Lillian Brooks (Phylicia Rashad). The doctor places him inside Black Box, a Virtual Reality simulator. But, the duplicitous doctor is really using Black Box to try and bring her late son Donald back to life. To do this the doctor has brought back to life her dead son’s personality inside Nolan’s body. The narrative, in its twist, turns from a horror pic to one about identity, as it tells about the son trying to reconnect with his wife Miranda (Charmaine Bingwa) and her daughter (Nyah Marie Johnson) while in another man’s body. After Miranda conksNolan on the head, he’s back with the doctor and we’re unsure of what finally happened in that strange relationship.
The film’s main problem is that the Black Box tale leads to an inconclusive, contrived, sentimental and unearned happy ending, as the viewer is denied a clear resolution of the situation when the experiment’s subject is hit over the head and the session ends with him again facing Dr. Brooks.
It’s an amnesia film that forgot to tell us how it ends. It pales greatly when compared to Christopher Nolan’s superb amnesia film Memento (2000).
REVIEWED ON 11/1/2020 GRADE: C+