Even if you have not yet seen the film, you have almost certainly seen some of the memes popping up everywhere of Sandra Bullock blindfolded, or perhaps some of the “Bird Box Challenge” videos of people trying to do random tasks while blindfolded – a “challenge” which Netflix has since put out disclaimer & warning tweets urging their fans Not to attempt. Either way, this Netflix original thriller pairs some familiar ideas with some creative twists, a couple of cute kids Bullock’s character affectionately names ‘Boy’ & ‘Girl’, and some monsters that are LITERALLY too scary to look at!
Sandra Bullock’s strong performance as Malorie, (a.k.a. best post-apocalypse-mother-ever), grounds this movie in the way it needed to be in order to prevent its more outlandish aspects from making this whole thing seem ridiculous. Despite John Malkovich leaning heavily on his typical acting choice to play his character as John Malkovich – something I’m personally a fan of anyway – they gave him just enough scenes to be enjoyable without becoming annoying. The two child actors appeared to be so young that I found myself surprised by how well they played their roles while remaining ridiculously adorable. Trevante Rhodes and Danielle Macdonald both do a wonderful job in their respective roles as companions to Malorie, but the rest of the cast left some things to be desired.
A big subject presented and discussed throughout the movie is the decision of whether or not people should help each other in times of extreme crisis, the potential good and bad repercussions either choice can have for our physical and emotional well-being, as well as what those choices can mean for an individual’s own humanity. At the beginning of the film, I felt like some of the death scenes were a bit more graphic than they needed to be. However, I came to realize they were shown so gruesomely in order for the audience to get a better understanding of how dire and dark this world was becoming. Those early scenes help viewers to more easily sympathize with the particular parenting style of the Malorie we see in the latter part of the story’s timeline.
The score is by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, a duo who have worked together many times, and created a sound for Bird Box that worked very well with the tone and suspenseful moments of the movie. But, overall, it is forgettable and there were multiple points that probably could have been even more chilling if they weren’t accompanied by any track at all.
While the basic premise of the film is extremely similar to a flop that came out ten years before it, Bird Box rises far above that picture because it tells a story of dynamic characters, thoroughly develops the lead’s growth through compelling events, while also exploring more broad, underlining themes of motherhood and our humanity. I found the weak point of this film to be its conclusion. Without spoiling things, I’ll clarify that I’m not referring to Malorie’s growth as a mother in the final act of the film since that was fantastic and made me tear up a bit. My complaint is in regards to what happens after that: I didn’t find it especially creative, climactic, nor even a very well-fleshed out idea.
Bird Box really plays on the concept that seeing the creatures can drive someone to suicide, never giving us any more than a deranged man’s drawings of what the creatures may actually look like. While I understand how some may be annoyed by this, the overall suspense is increased greatly by this cinematic tactic in a way that reminds me of the anticipation built by not really seeing the shark’s body for a majority of the original Jaws film. Similar to the dorsal fin peeking above the water, the various signs that allowed us to be aware of the Bird Box creatures’ presence without actually seeing them – their large looming shadows, the warning reactions from birds, the way leaves and grass would levitate as they moved near them, etc. –build anxiety and somehow make the creatures even more terrifying. If memory serves me right, almost all of the horror is built up slowly, via anticipation, with almost zero jump scares throughout the film.
Netflix and director, Susanne Bier, made a movie very similar to M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 thriller, The Happening. And I know this isn’t saying a lot, but Bier’s film is significantly better. While Sandra Bullock absolutely kills it in this movie, and several of her costars play their parts very well, there were a few performances too subpar for me to completely ignore. So long as you’re in the mood for suspense, and don’t let the wild popularity of the memes get your hopes up for something truly revolutionary, you’re going to enjoy taking a peek at this one!