Quick Hit: A bit of a paint by the numbers horror thriller, despite strong performances from a spread out cast.
I’m going to be far from the first critic, or far from the last, to compare Bird Box to A Quiet Place. It does add a unique perspective to have watched this film so soon after watching the other piece, The Silence, as we seem to have dropped into a strange horror niche that includes the horror of having one of your senses away. Now, before Hollywood adapts my upcoming novel The Smell In The Wind, in which you must not smell the creature lest he attack you, I must preface this – Bird Box is an adequate film at what it does, namely give Sandra Bullock another vehicle for her terrific ability to bring heart into a film that doesn’t always have some.
A small summary of the story may be in order. Essentially what occurs is an unnamed monster/alien/creature that remains unseen (aha, see what I did there) by the audience causes people to off themselves in particularly gruesome ways. Think The Happening, but with much less Wahlberg acting horribly. That leaves Malorie (Bullock) pregnant and alone… until she happens upon a house of people that take her in. There are a number of decent scenes on this side of the timeline, including a supermarket scene that invokes some of the best tension from The Mist. But there’s also a separate timeline that consists of Malorie taking two children – Boy and Girl – down the river to an unnamed destination. As the two stories come together, we see that she is forced to go there, because some of the people don’t kill themselves, they instead go bad.
In a way, I feel like The Silence and Birdbox are better companion pieces because they both have this element in common. The “People are the real monsters” thing is something that Stephen King continues to manage to write stories about (God bless him and that wonderful state of Maine), and it is effective here, particularly when there is a “twist” (using that term very lightly, as there is absolutely no way people don’t see this coming) in the story. I think that the cast handles what they’re given very well, managing to build up their strawmen characters much better than less accomplished actors. John Malkovich has the ability to steal every scene he’s in, even drawing the eye from Bullock, simply by nature of being a grumpy old man who is (rightfully) distrusting of everyone. However, it's Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight) that still manages to be the most interesting character in the whole movie, despite being just a handful of descriptive cliches.
I think what turned me off the most to this film was just how easy it was to see everything coming. The tension was there, hovering off the screen at times, but never fully explored. Instead, there is an obvious progression to the story from the very beginning, leading to the requisite happy ending. It’s very depressing for a film that manages to be entertaining even throughout its drabness. Which leads me to another point – sometimes using color filters and greying out everything to give things a dystopian look is not a good decision. Despite having a beautiful setting to work with in Malorie, Boy, and Girl traveling down a river, instead director Bier manages to steal the joy from nature itself… but in a bit of a boring way.
I’m going to go out and say that Bird Box is watchable, but I wouldn’t go back and seek it out. I’m giving it a “C”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"