One of the great horrors of contemporary life is commercial aviation catastrophe, the gross loss of life when airliners plummet from the sky into the sea or into a mountain.

Investigators of such calamities have relied on the so called black box to try to discover what went wrong to down a plane – pilot error, mechanical or electrical failure, an act of terrorism.

Yann Gozlan’s terrific thriller BLACK BOX (Boite Noire) is about Matthieu, an acoustical engineer with acute hearing and intuitive acumen who believes there is more to the crash of an aircraft into the Alps en route from Dubai to Paris than first seems.

The film begins with a tracking shot from cockpit to tail cargo bay of the fuselage of a commercial jet liner. Sensational in its execution, it manages to plant clues and misdirection while building the suspense. It’s a crash waiting to happen but you don’t know how and when.

Afterwards, the air safety investigators assemble the wreckage and locate the black box. Nothing is clear cut. There are theories formed and thrown out. Then the lead investigator suddenly disappears and Matthieu is put in charge.

His dogged pursuit of the truth behind the disaster descends into the dark corners of corruption and cover up, where capitalism collides with the common good, and the very real dangers of the technology trap where control can be malevolently manoeuvred and fail its very usefulness.

Soaring suspense propelled by a palpable paranoia, BLACK BOX is a brilliant detective thriller that expertly shows that the threats that come with our techno age can be thwarted by positive use.

Pierre Niney is superb as the acoustic sleuth whose diligence to detail and duty to the dead puts him on perilous ground and pits him against friends and foes alike.

Not recommended for in flight entertainment, best to see the high flying tension of BLACK BOX at this year’s Alliance Française French Film Festival.

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