In 2021, director Yann Gozlan and actor Pierre Niney team up for a second time after “An ideal man” for “Black box”. A paranoid French thriller that chronicles a BEA investigation into the crash of a Dubai-Paris plane. If the film is fiction, it maintains very disturbing relationships with reality…
Black Box: a nice French success
After An ideal man was released in 2015, filmmaker Yann Gozlan and actor Pierre Niney decided to collaborate once again with Black Box. Released on September 8, 2021, the feature film tells the investigation of Matthieu Vasseur (Pierre Niney), agent of the BEA, on the mysterious crash of a plane of the (fictional) European Airlines company, an Atrian-800. His investigation will take him on very slippery ground.
Also worn by Lou de Laâge and André Dussollier, Black Box has been a success. The work is nominated 5 times for the César (including Best Actor) but left this 2022 edition empty-handed. The feature film, a real paranoid thriller, attracted more than 1.1 million spectators in French cinemas.
A very realistic fiction
If the scenario of Black Box is inspired by real elements it does not, strictly speaking, relate to a true story. Yann Gozlan drew inspiration from various air disasters to lend credibility to his story. However, he refused to deal with a particular story to avoid the documentary aspect of his work, preferring to turn to the paranoid thriller way, Hitchcock.
The filmmaker has extensively documented the operation of international flights, the Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (the BEA), and the work of the technicians of this agency affiliated with the Ministry of Transport, but autonomous and not responding to any authority other than his own. We had met Yann Gozlan at the 2021 Angoulême Festival, and he had developed his approach aimed at maximum authenticity :
I really wanted to create a film of tension, of suspense. Still, I wanted the film to have realism and authenticity, so I was really focused on trying to portray that world as accurately as possible. It is a very secret environment. Not easy. (…) I was lucky, and I thank them for it, to really have the help and open-mindedness of the BEA. I interviewed, I had interviews with the BEA technicians, its engineers, and I “stole” a lot of anecdotes which are found in the film today.
A film that fully captures the risky issues of aeronautics
There are in Black Box several tracks mentioned to explain the crash, from terrorism to technical failure through hacking. And in the movie, driver assistance systems and more generally the computer systems increasingly present in aircraft, occupy a central place.
Yann Gozlan was right since these elements are at the center of the controversial Boeing 737 Maxequipped with the MCAS system, two of which crashed shortly after takeoff, in Indonesia in October 2018 and in Ethiopia in March 2019.
Following these two crashes, while the scenario of Black Box is over, almost all airlines and national and international authorities prohibit the flight of the Boeing 737 Max. The problem is twofold: the implementation of an automation system that constrains manual piloting capabilities, and the lack of training for pilots in this system, particularly its deactivation.
Yoann Gozlan had therefore been right in putting in Black Box this antagonism between man and machine, and a critique of the preponderance of computerized and automated systems in modern aeronautics. A speech which is notably carried in the film by the pilot Alain Roussin, played by Gregori Derangère.