Reviewed by REGGIE WOLTZ
Bird Box is the type of apocalyptic horror thriller that has positively nothing stimulating or original to say, despite expert direction and an astoundingly overqualified cast doing everything in their power to wrestle something this tiresome and done to death into respectability. If you’ve seen any film where a mismatched group of survivors has to band together to understand and survive an unpredictable and ever growing extinction level event – from Night of the Living Dead to The Mist to The Happening to A Quiet Place – you’ll know every single thing that happens in Bird Box from the moment the plot kicks into gear, and no amount of great direction or nuanced performances will distract from the fact that this has all been done so many times before and that it has been done a whole lot better.
Malorie (Sandra Bullock), a visual artist, is pushing forty and about to give birth to a child as a single mother. It was her idea to have a baby, but she’s not even sure she wants such a responsibility, thinking that she’s obliged by society to put her maternal instincts to good use, and partially because she’s just really lonely. Not long before she’s due to give birth, hell on earth breaks out when a mysterious, unseen force starts hypnotizing people and forcing them to kill themselves.
As chaos reigns in the streets, Malorie is rescued and brought inside a home where a small group of survivors with various temperaments are holed up. Before long, it is revealed that this psychological plague only affects the people who look directly at it, meaning that the survivors have to keep the blinds closed at all time and come up with creative ways of leaving the house to gather supplies.
Before the movie even establishes its characters, we’re told that all of the main action takes place in flashbacks. Bird Box opens and keeps cutting back to Malorie’s attempts to ferry her two young children, literally named Boy (Julian Edwards) and Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair), to a secured and safe facility at the end of a treacherous river; a trip they will have to make while blindfolded and with only a pair of birds in a box that can signal to them whenever dangerous forces are nearby.
From the start, it’s known exactly where the bulk of Bird Box is going to go through the simplest of observations and basic process of elimination. There are so many characters in Bird Box that it feels cluttered, and yet, we can’t care about a damn one of them other than Malorie because their fates are all but sealed from the second we lay eyes on them. Writer Eric Heisserer might be adapting a novel by John Malerman that might be following a similar structure, but I rarely see films shoot their stories in the foot so spectacularly from the very first scene as Bird Box does.
Director Susanne Bier can certainly make sequences that appear tense in a vacuum, and the film looks fine enough (with some great, atmospheric shots throughout and nifty sound design), but the material she’s given here is hackwork in the extreme. From scene to scene, Bird Box cycles through ideas, jump scares, characters, and themes that have been copied and pasted from a number of successful and unsuccessful movies that have come before it. The result might have monumental impact in the world of memes, but in reality it is nothing more than a slightly inspired retread.
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