Director: Susanne Bier
Writers: Eric Heisserer, Josh Malerman

Stars: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovuch, Sarah Paulson
Release Date: December 21, 2018

Alright. First think first. I know I am over a year late to this party.

Great. Moving on.

Using flashbacks better than I expected, Bird Box flips back-and-forth between the start of an unknown international crisis and the world years later when the global pandemic has its vice grips on humanity. Both timelines center around Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and willingness to survive and protect her family. Through the two different timelines, the audience gets sparring knowledge about the evil entity, but the danger Malora, Boy and Girl are made plenty obvious.

Bird Box makes the most of an invisible villain by giving the most focus on the characters involved. It is not like The Happening (2008), which focused on grotesque violence rather than any sense of interpersonal turmoil. Through very aggressive exposition established by sisters Jessica (Sarah Paulson) and Malorie talking, we learn how the movie’s heroin is avoiding the responsibilities of motherhood despite being pregnant. Conveniently, there is nothing like the pressures of death to make one inherit drastic maturity.

All the credit for making the sudden change compelling goes to Sandra Bullock. In all her seriousness, Bullock is very good in Bird Box. Working half the movie with only a pair of kids who have no names and little lines, Bullock conveys proper selfless terror. The scene where Malorie had to yell at Boy and Girl for befalling to youthful curiosity is genuinely hard to watch because the anger she feels isn’t directed at the kids, but her frustration has no other outlet then those in front of her.

The most engaging parts of Bird Box come when they are trapped in Douglas’ (John Malkovich) house. When Douglas is going psychotic, and the little moments between Tom (Trevante Rhodes) and Malorie. Props to Erin Heisserer and Josh Malerman for developing that relationship slowly through little moments rather than a gigantic climatic speech or emotional outpouring. It makes their “marriage” in the future more investable.

One other bullet point to put in the pro column is how the disease that is inflicting the entire world is never fully explained. In a weird way, Bird Box reminded me of The Birds, but to the opposite of what Alfred Hitchock’s film put forward.

In the 1963 thriller, the birds themselves were the evil entity. And based off many scholastic writings on the movie, the birds represented the oppression of female values and expectations. They pecked on a woman’s desire to be independent. In Bird Box, the birds are the holy grail of safety. They squawk when harm is coming, notifying Malorie (a strong independent women) and keeping her journey alive. In both The Birds and Bird Box, the evil is not explained, and the ending is optimistic though not conclusive.

Also, it goes without saying that Bird Box is a distant cousin of A Quiet Place (2018).

For a horror movie, it’s hard to be truly frightened when you literally can’t put a description on the infliction. In a classic zombie movie cliché, the true evil is humanity. The mind-warping evil in Bird Box either pushes people to commit suicide or pulls them into a cult-like trance. The humans afflicted, most notably Gary (Tom Hollander), claim everyone must gaze into the “void” to reach a utopian state of bliss.

This is were I hypothesize that Bird Box also spotlights the dangers of one’s fascination with religion and a god-like being. When the humans are afflicted, they act as if they have seen a divine being showing them bliss. And on the opposite end, when driven to kill themselves, it acts as a symbolic representation of how those who have seen the divine commit themselves to fully and destroy themselves.

Even with all this heavy duty (and possible over thing) extra meaning thrown into Bird Box, it can not withstand that rather incredibly anti-climatic third act. Once the story focuses solely on the “current” timeline for the final time, the drama is sucked out like a vacuum air seal. There is no suspense about whether or not Malorie and the children will survive. In the forest, then the competing voices are trying to separate the Boy and Girl…that was just poor. And the final twist of Malorie reconvening with the doctor at the school for the blind was a little too happy.

The Internet took hold of Bird Box and it took over social media for an extended period. I was unable to watch Bird Box when it first came out, and after the Internet grabbed it by the horns, my desire to watch it fell onto the back burner. Not sure if that was out of spite or general disinterest, but such is the reason why I’m just getting to it now. It only took a deadly quarantine-inducing quarantine to make me watch a movie about a killing supernatural pandemic (insert shrug emoji).

Bird Box is streaming on Netflix.

STANKO RATING: C+ (3.0/5 Stars)

“Bird Box” IMDB
“Bird Box” Rotten Tomatoes
Stanko Movie List

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