Apparently, what you cannot see CAN hurt you. Or at least that’s what the new Netflix original film Bird Box claims. Starring Sandra Bullock in the lead role, this sci-fi thriller was highly anticipated for many Netflix subscribers, which is proven by the fact that it has the highest starting viewership of any original Netflix film. The plot is intriguing to say the least: an unknown entity spreads across the world that forces any who take a glance to kill themselves. What exactly the affected people see is left unknown, but it is implied to be their greatest fear, thus causing them to find the easiest way to end their life. Many people have called this A Quiet Place with sight, but I think it’s more like The Happening, but not laughably bad.
Last year, the popular Netflix film was Bright, which was yet another disappointment from David Ayer, so it’s good to see that Netflix has learned their lesson and released a good film as their big-budget tent-pole. Bird Box is a fun, fast-paced, and tense thriller that is absolutely perfect for viewers to watch over Winter break. The film stars Sandra Bullock as a pregnant mother who gets caught up in the disaster, and who eventually gets stuck in a house with a number of strangers she doesn’t know. The film cuts back and forth between this plotline and one five years in the future, in which Bullock and two children are trying to get to a sanctuary via river while blindfolded.
The obvious compliment to give this film is to Bullock’s electric performance. She is consistently great in all of her other works, good or bad, and this is no exception. In a scene near the end, she elevates the writing given to her during a powerful scene in a forest, and somehow does this all without the use of her eyes. As performances go, the other standout is Trevante Rhodes as one of the more prominent characters in the house that the majority of the film is set in. He was magnificent in Moonlight, and he shines just as much here even though the material is nowhere near that of Barry Jenkins’ masterpiece.
No performance in Bird Box is lackluster, but the writing for some of the characters can be noticeably trite. In particular, Machine Gun Kelly (yes, he’s in this) and Rosa Salazar are both given very little material to work with, and their presence is just sort of an inconvenience to the progress of the film. I understand why they were included, but I felt little empathy towards their situation. Some characters are just thrown in the script, like Jacki Weaver, who has literally no reason to be in the film, while others are just cliche, like John Malkovich’s character. Malkovich plays the asshole of the bunch, something that everybody has seen him play before, and it just feels like he’s included in the film in order to create unnecessary conflict. Later in the film, he does get redemption of sorts, which makes up for many of the cliche writing earlier on, but it still feels like the writers were trying to make the film longer for no reason.
Luckily, the film’s overall plot and tense nature are more than enough to get the audience through any slowness that might appear, and it never gets boring, though it does meander in spots.
One aspect of Bird Box that I especially appreciate is the lack of CGI and tired green screen effects. Almost the entirety of the film is done practically with only one noticeable exception, and this adds to the authenticity and terror of this apocalyptic situation. Even the scenes on the raging river with a blindfolded Sandra Bullock have no green screen to be found, which contributes to the gorgeous cinematography that those scenes exhibit.
However, this leads me to my biggest issue with Bird Box: the structure degrades the suspense. As soon as the movie shows Bullock five years in the future with two kids, the audience knows exactly who is going to live and die. Admittedly, this does add a bit of dread to the narrative since the deaths are predictable, but this also lessons the impact of scenes that could have been riveting, but are instead passable. The film eventually catches up to itself, and that is where it gets the most exciting for me, which was around the final thirty minutes.
Bird Box is still a very well-made thriller, but I feel certain aspects of the story could have been chopped up or rearranged in order to make a more non-stop thrill ride. The film is still a fun watch, and I definitely recommend taking the time to have an anxiety-induced Winter break.
I give Bird Box a B.