Info: Every once in awhile I like to close my eyes, reach into my pile of scripts, and pull something out. I don’t look at the title. I don’t look at the writer. I want to go in completely ignorant and judge the writing for the writing. Sometimes you get lucky. Other times, you get Black Box.
Writer: Brad Holloway
I don’t like trashing scripts. I really don’t. I know how long it takes to write something. And I know how much heart and soul goes into it. But one of my biggest pet peeves is lack of effort. If your script doesn’t give me a single thing that I’ve never seen before, then why the fuck did you write the thing in the first place? If you were just going to cobble together scenes and lines and characters from all the other scripts and movies and TV shows that you’ve seen, then don’t be a writer. And on top of that, if your story is going to go nowhere for 119 pages just so you can have your big “twist” at the end, you better make sure that twist is the mother of all fucking twists. Not something that’s on every third episode of 24.
A better title for this script might have been “Nothing Happens.” Black Box is about the “investigation” of a crashed plane. The main character is some guy named Stu who apparently is addicted to pain killers. This is the extent of depth given to all the characters btw. One guy is having family problems. Another guy’s a drunk. It’s all so surface level and indicative of the level of thought put into this script.
Stu is convinced that the government is covering up the plane crash. As a cop (or an ex-cop – I’m still not sure) he jumps in and takes it upon himself to find the truth. His main adversary is Fairchild, a Homeland Security official, whose big thing is that he’s really pissed off all the time. I suppose that’s his character “flaw.” Stu’s all over Fairchild’s ass to let him hear the contents of the downed plane’s black box. Fairchild – being pissed off – says no. Uh oh, whatever will Stu do?
In the meantime, there’s a secondary story going on in Pakistan with random characters who we’re given no information on as far as how they’re connected to the story. We take part in their obviously shady dealings but we don’t care because we don’t know who the fuck they are or why we’re watching them.
In order to understand how bad this script is, you have to know that 67 pages into the story I still didn’t know any more than I did at the beginning of the story. A plane had crashed. There’s something fishy about it. The government is probably covering it up. I mean…what the fuck is the point of all this if we’re not going to get any new information? Or if we’re not going to get any new information, why aren’t we at least learning something about the characters? Tack onto that that we DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PLANE CRASH – the main thing that’s driving the film – because we don’t know who the fuck was on the plane, where they were coming from, or where they were going. We don’t know ANYTHING about them or any of the people who lost them. So why do we care if this mystery is figured out or not???
I just can’t tell you how boring this all was. I’d rather watch Joaquin Phoenix’s next rap set than read another page of “Nothing Happens.” (disclaimer: I actually thought his first song was pretty good) So Stu goes around conducting his own investigation with a bunch of scenes that basically amounted to, “Do you know anything about this crash?” “Yes, I heard two explosions.” “Two explosions?? Not one?” “No. Two.” – Goes to next location. Has extremely similar conversation with next guy – What we eventually learn is that the terrorists tricked the U.S. into blowing up their own plane! Which is why they needed to cover it up! Ooh. Wow. What a clever ending. 119 pages of dicking around for a 4th rate twist. Awesome.
I think what frustrates me the most about this script is that the idea of a black box is just so ripe for mystery. There are so many places you can go with it. And here we’re given one of the least interesting ways. This was a big waste of time. I have nothing else to say.
What I learned from Black Box: A simple rule is, if a major catastrophe is the centerpiece of your film, make sure that at least one of the characters has a personal connection to the catastrophe. For instance, make Stu or Fairchild have known someone on the plane that crashed. The entire movie instantly gains a level of depth with that very simple addition.