What was the “Black Box” hiding: analysis of the new thriller
Genre: Thriller, Detective, Drama
Year of production: 2021
Directed by: Jan Gozlan
Actors: Pierre Ninet, Lou de Laage, André Dussolier, Sebastien Pouderou, Olivier Rabourdin
tagline: “They hide the truth. He will tell it to everyone.”
The French thriller The Black Box tells the story of an airliner crash that killed 300 people. Talented acoustic analyst Mathieu challenges the management of a major airline to uncover the real cause of a tragedy. The plot and the ending of the film “Black Box” contain the triumph of truth over the lies and corruption machinations of the rich, but it costs the protagonist his life.
From the first frames of the film, the viewer gets on board the Atrian-800 aircraft, following from Dubai to Paris. There are 300 passengers and 16 crew members on board, everything is going as usual. Suddenly the liner enters the zone of turbulence. The camera moves to the tail of the aircraft, where the so-called “black box” is located. It is this detail that will be decisive in the plot. The screams of passengers are heard, then there is a noise, a blow, and everything is silent.
Pierre Ninet played the role of the analyst Mathieu Wasser. Frame from the film.
Next, the action is transferred to the office of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Safety Investigation and Analysis (BEA). The acoustics specialist Mathieu Wasser works at the monitor. He understands the causes of a helicopter crash during an air show and immediately identifies problems by the sound of the propeller. Mathieu has a unique ear. But to his remarks, a colleague exclaims in disbelief: “Do you hear a difference in sound at 60 hertz?” Nobody believes him, and the main character has no more weighty evidence.
It becomes known about the crash of the Atrian-800 Dubai-Paris. Mathieu learns that he was not taken to the commission to decipher the “black box”. Frustrated, he goes to a dinner party in the company, where he was invited by his wife Noemi. She also works for BEA, participating in the inspection and certification of aircraft before they are released into the sky. They are joined for dinner by their longtime friend Xavier Renault, CEO of Pegase Security.
Mathieu does not like noisy events, he is uncomfortable among people. In addition, he is upset about his suspension, because investigating such a major disaster is his dream. Together with Noemi, they discuss the causes of the crash. The woman says that a technical failure is unlikely, because they checked the plane before release and issued a license to it. Matthieu really wants to figure it all out himself.
Lou de Laage as Mathieu’s wife, Noémie. Frame from the film.
The next day, the boss of the company, Felippe Renier, calls him and says that now he must decipher the contents of the “black box” from the board of the Atrian-800. The head of the Bureau of Investigation, Victor Pollock, suddenly disappeared, and the country’s authorities and journalists need answers. A press conference has already been scheduled for the evening. Mathieu enthusiastically gets down to business. He is provided with a record from the registrar of the aircraft.
Thanks to his subtle hearing, Mathieu immediately picks up the sounds of the steps of an outside man who entered the cockpit after the stewardess. He immediately announces this to the boss. At a press conference, Mathieu personally voices his version: when the stewardess brought lunch to the crew, a terrorist entered the cockpit behind her, who had previously been hiding in the pilots’ toilet. The version is fixed as official, this description suits everyone. The culprit is one of the passengers originally from Egypt.
Everything would have ended there, but suddenly a recording of a telephone conversation of one of the passengers of the fallen liner falls into the hands of Mathieu. After examining all the details, the hero realizes that the call was made 8 minutes after the officially announced plane crash. This seems suspicious to Matthew. He begins to delve into the details and sees that something does not fit, does not make sense. Against the background of the passenger’s words, he distinguishes the sounds of an alarm, which were not in the ending on the official recording from the “black box”.
André Dussolier as Felipe Renier. Frame from the film.
Mathieu talks about the inconsistencies with his boss Felipe Renier. He also sees that not everything is going smoothly, but he thinks that the team simply did not take something into account during the initial investigation. Mathieu continues to delve into the details. He tries to contact Victor Pollock, but his phone is silent. In his office, he finds strange letters on the table and a notebook with the inscription Stellar 203. He sees a hidden meaning in this. Mathieu goes to Pollock’s house.
Having broken the glass in the window, he enters Victor’s house. Mathieu finds a basement with installed acoustic equipment and a tablet. Entering the Stellar 203 password in it, he turns it on, but does not see anything useful for himself. He then goes into Victor’s garage and removes the recorder from his car. Recording of one of the days shows that Victor Pollock met with his friend Xavier Renault. This seems suspicious to Matthew.
After studying the meaning of the documentation related to the flights of Atrian airliners, Mathieu learns that pilots have repeatedly filed complaints about control failures. But each time they were ignored. He meets with one of the company’s pilots. He tells his version: “The liner was released to the market early. Atrian wanted to overtake his competitors. They have contracts in Qatar and India, many billions of dollars. They just turned a blind eye to problems with the autopilot.” To Mathieu’s objection that the commission had checked everything, the pilot replied: “How naive you are. The management of the company has its people everywhere.”
Mathieu understands that his wife Noemi is also involved in these machinations. After all, she personally participates in the commission for issuing certificates for aircraft. But a frank conversation with her only leads to a quarrel. Noemi accuses Mathieu of being paranoid and is unwilling to acknowledge the problem. Then he decides to speak openly with Xavier. He shows him the record from the registrar of Victor Pollock, where they are together, and demands an explanation. Xavier also accuses Mathieu of being too suspicious and does not want to answer his questions.
Aurélien Recoin as Claude Varine, Lou de Laage as Noémie Wasser, Sebastien Pouderou as Xavier Renault. Frame from the film.
Realizing that it makes no sense to seek the truth in an honest way, he hacks into his wife’s work computer at night and finds reports on the inspection of the Atrian-800 liner. There is data on malfunctions, Mathieu downloads and sends them to his management. Noemi is called “on the carpet” in the company, she is threatened with dismissal. She understands who leaked the information. They have an unpleasant conversation with Mathieu, the man blames her for being involved in the death of 300 people.
After carefully studying the notes again, Mathieu realizes that someone has hacked into the liner’s control system. He meets with Mediapart journalist Caroline Delmas, who tells him about David Keller, who has previously hacked planes while on board. Then a video filmed in the cabin shortly before the crash falls into the hands of Mathieu. He recognizes David in one of the passenger seats, sitting with a laptop on his lap.
In his office, after reviewing the footage of the helicopter crash, Mathieu notices that it has been altered. Only Victor Pollock, who had access to his computer, could do this. In the recording, the hero finds strange numbers and realizes that these are coordinates. With the help of a navigator, he finds this place – at the bottom of the lake near Pollock’s house. Hidden there is a recording from a real “black box” of the fallen Atrian-800 liner. A video file is attached to it, in which Pollock himself confesses to all the fraud with registrars, made by him on the order of the management of the company Pegase Security, which is led by Xavier Renault.
Mathieu starts downloading the file to the “cloud” and sees that unknown people are entering the house. He understands that they came for him. He manages to run out of the house and into the car. He is pursued, but halfway through the hero manages to break away. And suddenly his car gets out of control – someone connected to its control system. An uncontrolled car crashes into a tree at full speed, Mathieu dies. But the upload of the file to the “cloud” is completed, the truth about the crash of the liner is leaking to the Web.
At the end of the film, Xavier Renault speaks at a conference for his company, Pegase Security. Noemi is there too. Before the ceremony, she tells Xavier that she just couldn’t sit at home alone anymore. He thanks her for her participation. And then, right in the middle of Xavier’s fiery speech, a video of Victor Pollock appears on the screen behind him, where he admits that he forged the records from the “black boxes” on his orders.
In the last shots, Noemi leaves the hall in tears and walks along the training ground past the standing planes. The meaning of the ending of the film “Black Box” is that Noemi finished the work begun by her dead husband. She realized her mistake. After all, following the lead of the leadership, she also became indirectly guilty of that terrible accident. The woman made public the information obtained by Mathieu at the cost of her own life. Thus, she acted according to her conscience, even if too late.
The meaning of the film
Many people hesitate to seek the truth, even if they understand that the matter is unclean. Relations with relatives get in the way, possible problems at work, all this serves as a stopper, and the truth remains undiscovered.
Mathieu was not afraid to go against all this – against the system, the leadership, and even his own wife. He once again proved the truth that all the great discoverers are loners and, in a sense, psychos. They are obsessed with the desire to know the truth and bring it to the people.
A brilliant aviation analyst becomes a detective, revealing the scheme of the crime and giving his own explanation for the ending of this high-profile case. And although the scheme has been well worked out all these years, a simple employee managed to break through this corruption web. The essence of the film is to show the problem that exists in many areas. A person who is able to think and doubt is automatically an enemy of the system. Subtle issues of morality and ethics are touched upon, when the financial well-being of the top of large companies is put above the safety and lives of people.
Olivier Rabourdin played the role of Victor Pollock. Frame from the film.
- Illusion of Flight, USA, 2005. After the death of her husband, a successful aeronautical engineer, Kylie Pratt and her daughter flew to New York. On the way, the girl disappears, the mother goes to extreme measures to unravel this case and find her daughter.
- “Crew”, USA, UAE, 2012. Pilot Whip Whitaker has a lot of experience, but with age he is increasingly applied to the bottle. During one of the flights, he manages to avoid a disaster, he is declared a hero, but is everything so clear?
- The Ideal Man, France, 2015. The protagonist Mathieu Vasset (Pierre Ninet) is a not-too-lucky writer who craves fame. Having accidentally found the diary of a veteran of the Algerian war, Mathieu decides to use it for his own selfish purposes.
- Smolensk, Poland, 2016. Unlike other films similar to Black Box, this world-famous plane crash near Smolensk actually happened in 2010. On board the liner was the President of Poland, as well as the country’s top leadership.