The Movie Waffler New Release Review (VOD) - BIRD BOX | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (VOD) - BIRD BOX

bird box review
Earth is invaded  by creatures that turn anyone who lays eyes on them suicidal.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Susanne Bier

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Sarah Paulson, Jacki Weaver

bird box poster

Headlined by a bona fide A-list star in Sandra Bullock and helmed by an Oscar winning director in Susanne Bier, Bird Box is further evidence that Netflix is as capable of attracting talent as any of the major Hollywood studios. Yet despite the starry presence of the aforementioned women, it's a generic post-apocalyptic thriller that would quickly find itself relegated to bargain buckets were it released through traditional channels.

bird box review

Adapted from Josh Malerman's novel, Bird Box tells its tired story through two separate timelines. One sees Bullock's heroine Malorie leaving the safety of a secluded cabin with two young children in tow. All three are blindfolded, and Malorie has given the kids a stern warning that if they expose their eyes they will die.

The second timeline, which constitutes the bulk of the narrative, takes us back five years to the outbreak of an apocalyptic event that results in mass suicides. Mysterious creatures have emerged from some unknown world, and anyone who gazes upon them is immediately compelled to take their own life. A heavily pregnant Malorie finds herself holed up in a spacious suburban house with Douglas (John Malkovich), the sort of narcissistic a-hole every one of these movies is obliged to feature, and an assortment of uninteresting survivors.

bird box review

There are few surprises in store here for those of us familiar with post-apocalyptic cinema. We know at some stage the survivors will be forced to leave the safety of their makeshift abode in search of supplies. We know the group will eventually turn on each other from within. And we know at some point the film will pose the question of who the real monsters are. The film doesn't neglect its duty in ticking off survival horror check-boxes, but only the supply run - which sees the protagonists head out in a blacked out car, Bier making clever use of the vehicle's parking sensors to generate scares - offers a worthwhile variation on the dozens of examples of this sort of story that already exist.

Bird Box is essentially a monster movie, but it continuously gives the impression that it's embarrassed by such a label. The antagonistic creatures are never shown to the audience - glimpsed only in drawings made by a character who has somehow survived seeing them for long enough to bring chaos on our protagonists - and this robs the film of any potential for suspense sequences. Save for the aforementioned car set-piece, Bier fails to communicate her monsters' geographical presence in any tangible way, and so we rarely feel like the human characters are in any clear danger. In a nod to Hitchcock, Malorie keeps caged birds which grow anxious when the creatures draw near, but this device is never employed to any satisfying effect.

bird box review

The assembled survivors are as cardboard a bunch of archetypes as you'll find in any of the z-grade zombie movies that clog up streaming sites. Only Malkovich's cowardly douchebag feels like a real human, and ironically he's the most sensible of the whole bunch, with others meeting their fate by ignoring his warnings. In making the arrogant, rich white man who wants to keep strangers out of his home the character most worth heeding, Bird Box might be the most pro-Trump movie to emerge from mainstream American cinema. Somehow, I don't think that was the intention of anyone involved.

Bird Box is on Netflix now.

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