Black Box (Boite Noir)     French Film Festival

Yann Gozlan’s taut thriller makes an impressive addition to this year’s French Film Festival, and has particular appeal for those who are intrigued by conspiracy theories or who refuse to accept dubious explanations of events at face value.

In the aftermath of an aircraft crashing with the loss of all 316 passengers and crew, an enquiry is set up, to be headed by Vincent Pollock (Olivier Rabourdin). Pollock visits the crash site and then almost immediately disappears. This, it must be said is the one flaw in the plot – not his disappearance per se, but the fact that it arouses so little concern from his bosses and the police.

Charge of the investigation is given to analyst Mathieu Vasseur (Pierre Niney) whose dedication is regarded by some colleagues as borderline obsessive. When the case is shut down by the authorities, placing the blame on a perceived terrorist attack by someone on board, Mathieu remains unconvinced. He goes over the recordings again and again, concentrating on the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) rather than the Flight Data Recorder.

All his instincts and experience tell him that there is something far wrong, but what? A number of possibilities present themselves, only to be discarded. No hard evidence is forthcoming, and his bosses order him to leave it. But his obsessive nature won’t allow him to let it go and he becomes convinced that somehow the recording has been tampered with.

On the verge of losing his job, and with his marriage having disintegrated, he struggles through a far reaching web of deceit in a last effort to expose what really happened.

While the final scenes might be considered a little overly dramatic compared with how Gozlan has slowly teased out what has gone before, this remains a tense and absorbing film that repays the viewer’s patience.

Jim Welsh

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