By Dave B.
In Bird Box (Netflix) Malorie (Sandra Bullock) attempts a desperate, treacherous journey down a river with two children to find a safe haven during an apocalyptic situation. Blindfolded. Malorie’s harrowing flight is interspersed with flashbacks to five years in the past, when an epidemic of grizzly suicides sweeps the world when people see…something that can’t be described because if you see it, you die. As Malorie and the children approach their destination, will they be able to overcome their own hopes and fears while remembering the lessons of the past five years that may enable them to make a journey that is nearly impossible? Or will they guarantee their failure by taking a peek at the threats that surround them?
I imagine that Bird Box is going to be fairly evenly split between its supporters and its detractors. Part of the reason for that is that it doesn’t easily fit into an established genre. It most resembles a sci-fi horror film, but its emphasis is fairly evenly divided between character development, tension-building, and jump-scares. I think that some people will (justifiably) feel that it lacks a consistent theme, has a fairly standard plot, and will be annoyed that its frequent time jumping causes the film to fail to build a steady energetic momentum. And although I can see and respect those criticisms of Bird Box, I feel that they miss the point and ignore the film’s considerable strengths.
What Bird Box may lack in momentum-building, it more than makes up for with a consistent and pervasive dread-filled tone. Of all the apocalypse scenarios that I’ve seen in books or movies, this is the one that I would be the least likely to survive. My curiosity would get the better of me eventually. And what makes Bird Box truly frightening is that it does a good job of portraying one of the biggest fears of people who have the ability to see: becoming effectively blind. Imagine a situation where you’re scared to death, your adrenaline is pumping, and suddenly you hear an unexpected sound. How many of us could resist trying to see what that sound is, even knowing that trying to find out means death? Maybe after years of practice, we could fully trust our other senses, but that takes time and the elimination of what is the most used sense for most of us is the reason why Bird Box’s end of the world scenario is really going to impact a lot of viewers.
Even with the fact that Bird Box is fundamentally unnerving, what makes it standout are its performances. Bullock is great as the tough, capable, but fundamentally terrified Malorie. And the chemistry between her and Trevante Rhodes (who plays Tom), is palpable. The movie could’ve consisted of only the two of them and been a hit. The fact that the supporting cast all hit hoemruns is a welcome bonus.
The only thing keeping me from giving Bird Box a more generous score is that the last 60 seconds or so of the film pissed me off due to an unrealistic and unnecessary inclusion. Outside of that glaring (but relatively minor misstep) Bird Box is a well-acted, tension-filled rollercoaster of a ride that I really enjoyed and that I highly recommend. In fact, I may just watch it again, which is something that I rarely do and don’t have time for. Yes, for the most part it’s that good of a movie, if you’re on the side of the opinion divide that is inclined to be impressed by the movie’s strengths instead of on the one that see it’s unconventional pacing and well-worn narrative path as overwhelming weaknesses.
Click link for Shana's book review of Bird Box
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.