BIRD BOX -- Grade: B
Updated: Dec 30, 2018
This post-apocalyptic thriller is definitely worth a look. It's scary as hell, Sandra Bullock rocks, and it's directed by a woman.
You’ve probably seen this image of Sandra Bullock, blindfolded with two young kids, in the new Netflix movie Bird Box, and thought, “Is this gonna be just like A Quiet Place and Cloverfield and The Happening and The Walking Dead and every other post-apocalyptic horror thriller I’ve ever seen?” And the answer is yes. But it’s a really, really intense, good one. Plus, it’s got Sandra Bullock and a female director. Woo-hoo!
There’s a reason these end-of-the-world stories work so well -- it’s because you could totally buy this happening, especially in Trump World. In Bird Box, everyone’s going along living their lives, and all of a sudden, mass suicides start breaking out -- cars crashing, people screaming, chaos ensuing. It feels totally real and totally creepy. (Granted, I was watching it on the same night that the sky in New York lit up bright blue because of a blown transformer and scared the crap out of everyone, but still.)
Bullock’s always believable, and she’s the #strongfemalecharacter we’ve come to know and love here too. Her character Malorie is pregnant (tho she’s really not that into the whole "being a mother" thing), and when the sh-t hits the fan, she takes shelter with a rag-tag group of survivors (including John Malkovich as his scenery-chewing best) in a gorgeous Craftsman house. They soon figure out that if you lay eyes on whatever this invisible entity is, you immediately go insane and kill yourself. Hence, the blindfolds, and hence, the many familiar tropes that follow (scavenging for food, infighting, questionable decision making, setting out for a maybe mythical sanctuary).
But even when you know which twists may be coming, Bullock and company -- in particular, the two little wide-eyed urchins named “Boy” and “Girl” -- have sucked you in to the story, leaving you legit on the edge of your seat.
The film’s also a fairly effective character journey of a woman who wants nothing to do with motherhood, and how she does -- and doesn’t -- rise to the occasion when forced into the role. The staunch feminist in me would probably say that this is a really overly simplistic approach to this dilemma, and of course, the outcome is never really in doubt. But it does lend some sort of slightly interesting subtext to an otherwise straightforward thriller.
Kudos to director Susanne Bier, who became famous for films in her native Denmark -- including the Oscar-winning Best Foreign Film In a Better World -- before winning an Emmy for The Night Manager. This film is as handsome and well-made as any big-budget thriller, and the performances are excellent. In particular, there’s a scene set in a car with blacked-out windows that’s a masterful display of tension building.
Besides Bullock and Malkovich, the top-notch cast includes Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story), Jacki Weaver, Danielle Macdonald (Patty Cake$), Rosa Salazar, Lil Rel Howery (playing the same comic-relief character essentially as he did in Get Out) and BD Wong.
Bird Box seems to have struck a creepy chord -- it’s already set a new record for the number of Netflix accounts that’ve screened it in its first week of release. It's definitely worth a look, it just doesn't rise above its genre roots quite enough.