“Please don’t take my children!”
In a year where psychological horror-thrillers were raking it in at the box office, Bird Box didn’t quite reach the standard of films such as A Quiet Place in the eyes of the critics. However, one of Netflix’s newest originals is by no means a bad film.
Bullock’s dynamic performance as the sceptic turned bad-ass warrior mum, Malorie, is both tender and fierce, and whilst Bullock is no stranger to playing strong female protagonists (thinking of Miss Congeniality and The Heat), her role in Bird Box takes a step away from the comical, light-hearted character we’re so used to seeing on our screens – displaying both her adaptability and raw talent as an actor. The all-star cast, including Trevante Rhodes, Sarah Paulson and John Malkovich, adds colour to Malerman’s incredibly bleak narrative concept; the filming lending much of its success to characters such as Malkovich’s highly commended portrayal of misanthropic and pessimistic Doug, which works well to act as a foil to Bullock’s determined heroine, bringing an honesty and realism to the genre.
The film is hard-hitting and tense throughout, managing to captivate a wide audience, enjoyed even by those that aren’t usually fans of psychological horror-thrillers. However, if you’re a die-hard fan of the genre, you might find this film disappointing, with its presupposed moments of gore, clear contrivances and general predictability including, for some viewers, the films twist ending.
In yet another post-apocalyptic narrative, the world is terrorised by a mysterious ‘creature’ that takes the form of your worst fears when you look at it, driving the population to mass suicide.
The story begins with Malorie (Bullock) preparing her two, five-year old children, Boy and Girl, for a two-day journey down the river to a refuge, which they must complete blindfolded in order to survive. The film then proceeds to flash back to five years before when a reluctantly pregnant Malorie becomes caught in the chaos ensued by the arrival of this supernatural ‘creature’, and ends up holed up in a house full of strangers, searching for the hope to survive.
Adapted from Josh Malerman’s best-selling novel of the same name, Bird Box is told through a series of flash-backs and flash-forwards between these two narratives and intelligently reveals information about the creature itself when it is most needed – driving the audience’s desire for answers throughout.
What is most frustrating perhaps, is that the creature itself cannot be seen, portrayed on screen by a murmur of leaves and the imitation of voices trying to persuade the characters to take off their blindfolds. Whilst this works well conceptually, some crucial moments of tension were diminished by the lack of a tangible monster. The film has a few similar loose ends, such as the existence of some characters who have seen the creature and survived. Malerman explains in his novel that anybody deemed ‘insane’ before “The Problem” – the entrance of this apocalyptic force – are able to survive the effects of the creature and instead work in its favour, encouraging people to look and therefore leading them to their deaths. Whilst these characters exist in the film, the explanation of their existence is insubstantial, making their use in the film’s plot quite artificial.
Like Bird Box itself, the film’s ending is no survivor of mixed reviews. In a story where there is not much hope, the ending feels like an almost forced moment of relief, this strange sense of happiness, although made moving by Bullock’s emotional performance, doesn’t quite satisfy a feeling of resolution. The film also seems to fall short of engagingly probing the question of whether living is the same as surviving, however sits comfortably as a stead-fast portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world.
What many critics have said to be a film with a promising premise that wasn’t quite pulled off under Bier’s direction, Bird Box persists to be widely recommended and talked about by its viewers, viral sensations such as the Bird Box challenge sparking increased media coverage. The film might not be winning any awards but if you’re looking for a tense and thought-provoking thriller, supported innumerably by it’s fantastic cast, then this is definitely one to watch.
Bird Box is out on Netflix now!
~ Molly Rymer
~ IMG sources: Netflix UK