Back in 2014, director Angel Delgado showed huge promise with his feature film debut, Brothers’ Day. The gritty crime thriller shone a light on the gang culture which prevails across England. For his follow-up film Black Box, Delgado has opted for a total change of pace and genre: switching from the mean streets of Manchester to outer-space, Black Box shows that the Spanish-born filmmaker has the directing chops to easily move across different genres.
The science fiction drama sees Marcus (Gary Graham Smith), the lone survivor of a space station accident, trapped in a damaged escape pod. Suffering from amnesia, Marcus must piece together how he got there and follow the instructions from the ground control team who are helping him get back to Earth with the station’s Black Box.
Funded largely through a Kickstarter campaign, this low budget film’s location setting and claustrophobic use of space has echoes of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 Gravity. Whereas Cuarón had a $100 million budget at his disposal, Delgado had a considerably less budget (thousands, not millions). However, what the director and his crew did have was ingenuity – which makes Black Box a tremendous feat in low budget, independent filmmaking. The production design of the film’s one-set is top notch, while green screen helps the film deliver some wonderfully ingenious zero gravity sequences. Throw in some great CGI for the external space scenes and you have a low budget movie which punches way above its budget. It’s heartening to see fresh stories being told by filmmakers who are able to overcome budgetary obstacles simply by using their drive and passion for film.
Scripted by Delgado and co-writer Ben Edmundson, Black Box not only follows Marcus’ literal journey to earth, but also his emotional path as he attempts to understand what has actually happened to him – and what is going to happen. There’s a complexity in this development and the film offers-up some interesting bumps and diversions along the way. Considering that he’s on-screen alone for the duration of the film, Gary Graham Smith handles things well and gets across Marcus’ flaws as well as his heroics. It’s a solid performance which makes this space-set science fiction film feel emotionally grounded.
All films need to be judged on their own merits taking into budget, scope and the aspirations of its makers. Considering the limited means which were used to bring Black Box to the screen, this makes it an achievement which is nothing short of remarkable.