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Bird Box – Review

 
Bird Box Poster
Bird Box Poster
Bird Box Poster

 
Overview
 

Release Date: 21 December 2018
 
Director: Susanne Bier
 
Writer: Eric Heisserer - [Adapted from the novel by] - Josh Malerman
 
Cast: Sandra Bullock - Trevante Rhodes - John Malkovich
 
Direction
 
 
 
 
 


 
Writing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Performance
 
 
 
 
 


 
Sound & Music
 
 
 
 
 


 
Cinematography
 
 
 
 
 


 
Editing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Visual Effects
 
 
 
 
 


 
Total Score
 
 
 
 
 
3/5


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Posted December 23, 2018 by

 
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Bird Box – Review

The opening scene of Bird Box, the latest Netflix film, is intense and confounding. Malorie (Sandra Bullock) is instructing two little children about staying blindfolded and not ‘looking’ as they row down a river. We are unaware of their destination, but we know it is perilous and not safe to traverse with children. For viewers who have not read the 2014 book by Josh Malerman, Malorie’s circumstances are frightening.

The spell that the opening sequence casts is soon burst as the film examines the origins of the post-apocalyptic world that Malorie inhabits. We see her as a slightly younger woman, expecting her first child and being cared for by her sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson). Mal seems disconnected from her maternal experience, but any concerns her sister might have are soon erased when an unknown epidemic wreaks havoc with the world, causing people to kill themselves.

Mal is able to escape into a house with a handful of other people, including Trevante Rhodes’ Tom, John Malkovich’s Douglas, Jacki Weaver’s Cheryl, Rosa Salazar’s Lucy and Lil Rel Howery’s Charlie. The group form an uneasy alliance, but life becomes a tussle for survival and a fear of looking at the outside world. Their fight has only just begun.

It is surprising that Bird Box has been released the same year as A Quiet Place, another horror film set in a world where human beings cannot use one of their five senses for fear of being attacked. The mysterious phenomenon that plagues the world in Bird Box ensures people cannot leave their homes without blindfolds. Throughout the film, it is never made clear what or how the phenomenon works, and I am glad that screenplay writer Eric Heisserer did not try and delve into it.

Bird Box - Review

The performances all round are adequate, though the stand-out for me was Trevante Rhodes. He not only plays a character full of endless generosity, but he seems to epitomise the character’s goodness in every scene. Bullock seemed to be phoning it in at times, which is surprising, given her stunning resume. Among the supporting actors, Danielle Macdonald as a fellow mother-to-be was good in her curtailed role, but Rosa Salazar looked quite lost in her scenes.

The ensemble cast features a number of cameos from actors who deserved a better platform. It surprises me that the film lacks any substantial diversity in its cast, despite baiting audiences with Parminder Nagra and BD Wong. Neither actor gets more than two scenes each – instead we have John Malkovich playing the same cantankerous old man he stereotypically appears as in most of his films. Even if the source material doesn’t call for it, inclusivity livens up the proceedings and makes a film feel representative.

Bird Box struggled to keep me invested in the characters because none of them was given any time to deal with they trauma. In a rush to get through the major milestones from the book, director Susanne Bier seems to have forgotten to attach any emotional heft to the proceedings. The characters are stuck in an unimaginable situation and they witness horrifying things, yet it takes them hardly a moment to deal with it before everyone is cracking bad jokes. The film lacked the intensity that it’s opening salvo promised.

The characters also don’t act like they’re an apocalyptic world. They walk around with a confident air that belies the demoralising circumstances that they find themselves in. It’s this kind of self-aware directing that lets the film down because nothing on-screen holds any gravitas or credibility.

Bird Box is not without its moments of merit, but those are few and far between, and usually undercut by some contrivance. The film feels like a by-the-numbers attempt at horror, which is a shame as the central premise is refreshing. What surprises me is that a script like this was able to attract such an all-star cast.

As a fan of horror, Bird Box doesn’t quite fit the bill. The internal logic is inconsistent and the story is more invested in ticking all the boxes than making an emotional connection with the story. Despite being entertaining, the film is also eminently forgettable.

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Lestat de Lioncourt
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