Bird Box (2018)
Director: Susanne Bier | Runtime: 2h 4mins | Drama, Sci-Fi
When the world falls into an apocalyptic frenzy, Mallory (Sandra Bullock) finds herself locked in a house with strangers trying to survive the outside. 5 years later, Mallory is trying to survive still, this time accompanied by two children.
Bird Box in some respects is very lucky, it has both a shaming reputation of being eerily similar to John Kransinski’s wonderful A Quiet Place, but also gaining a lot of attention worldwide which bodes well for Netflix and shaking off any comparisons it gets. These two counter each other leaving Bird Box with a level of individualism and one of the biggest audiences for a Netflix Original film.
The film cuts between a pregnant Mallory, accompanied by a number of other people trying to survive the fresh anarchy unraveling outside, and five years later when Mallory, now in full blown survival mode, is travelling down a river with two small children. The earlier story starts well as Sarah Paulson and Sandra Bullock riff off each other, showing just how much chemistry they can have (something we didn’t see in Ocean’s 8), and trying to escape the panic ensuing around them. It’s exciting, shocking and a great set up. Unfortunately though, when the panic calms a little and the story becomes about the survivors it does fall into certain cliches. The characters feel like the most basic archetypes, there’s the unlikable guy (John Malkovich), the sacrificial hero (Get Out’s Lil Rel Howery), and the acquaintances (Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes being the important figure). Luckily with a wonderful cast each person does the best with what they’re given, but sadly these archetypes and slightly replayed story leave this particular part of the film generic.
Luckily, there is a saving grace. Jump forward to five years later, we find Mallory taking a last leap of survival taking two children down a long river to a hypothetical sanctuary of safety. Susanne Bier’s change in tone has much more cinematic feel, the setting is beautiful as the trio ride slowly down the vast and winding river between miles of greenery. But the best part is Mallory’s constant maternal struggle, an unconnected bond with the children she is saving. This particular part of the story has tension, sacrifice and is chock full of emotion.
Whether you see Bird Box as a apocalyptic ride or as a mother’s maternal struggle (I prefer the latter), it can’t help but feel fractured. Despite the split of quality, the film has a lot of great moments and has enough talented faces in the cast to keep you reeled in.