Director: Susanne Bier
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Vivien Lyra Blair
Available on Netflix
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During the holidays, Netflix dropped an unexpected Christmas treat. If you woke up and looked on social media, it was all that everyone was talking about worldwide. It either made you curious – because, hey, who doesn’t like a Sandra Bullock movie? – or the noise annoyed you so much, you watched simply to shut it out.
I leaned towards the latter, so I joined in with the 45 million other Netflix subscribers (in a week) who watched Bird Box.
The movie starts with Malorie (Bullock) shouting at a little boy and girl to follow her every word or they will die. They look absolutely terrified – justifiably so.
The movie then cuts to five years earlier, when Malorie is pregnant but not particularly excited about it, and is at a doctor’s visit with her sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson). On their drive home, they witness chaotic scenes as people deliberately crash their cars, throw themselves into fires and end their lives in other ways under the power of an unseen force.
We then jump between timelines of Malorie with the two children and Malorie with a small gang of survivors trapped in a house, working out what is going on and how they might survive the chaos.
Malorie has spent five years surviving it, trapped in this house. She ends up outlasting the rest of her housemates – a group of people who, like her, stumbled into the first open door they found on the morning the chaos struck.
Bird Box starring Sandra Bullock Picture: Supplied
But these characters – played by Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, Patti Cake$’s Danielle Macdonald, The Maze Runner’s Rosa Salazar and Get Out’s Lil Rel Howery – feel so stuffed together and hugely underwritten that they add up to almost nothing in the film. Not even John Malkovich as an alcoholic crank helps.
To move on to a final destination of safety, Malorie now has to guide the children – whom she has unaffectionately named Boy and Girl – out of their home and into a rowing boat to travel down a dangerous river for days while blindfolded. They are accompanied on their journey by a trio of birds that Malorie wisely caged in a box; the birds turn out to be reliable announcers of danger.
The movie, directed by Susanne Bier and based on a novel by Josh Malerman, is consistently disjointed in its point of view. It shows the characters in their struggle to survive, but never shows the audience the actual struggle. However, it presents just enough of the mysterious force’s effect – a wind whipping up leaves that creates a suicidal impulse.
Where the film also left me hanging was in its depiction of the blindfolding. Bier gives us flashes throughout the film of the blue fabric around Malorie’s eyes, but never for long enough to capture the terror that a sighted person will feel trying to survive blindly with two children.
In addition, Bier does not allow the audience the thrilling experience of going through the events with the characters. Instead, she shows them being put through the steps necessitated by the script in a mundane way. In the end, the scenes feel like incidents that are forcefully pasted together to follow some kind of flow, which, in the end, leaves you feeling absolutely nothing.
If we are not going to be given a decent thriller on screen, at least the sound effects should have made up for it. But even those left me with a feeling of “oh, okay”.
Despite the movie’s hollow feel overall, Malorie’s escape and manoeuvrings with the children stand out as a memorable highlight.
I honestly think that, were it not for the presence of Bullock, Bird Box might have passed by with very little fanfare. When an actress of her calibre pops up on your Netflix menu in a film you have never heard of, it is bound to grab your attention.
But not even that was enough for this Bullock fan.