Adapted from a book that wouldn’t be scary if it was made visual, Bird Box makes the New York Best Seller thudding-ly literal.
Synopsis: When a mysterious force decimates the world’s population, only one thing is certain: if you see it, you take your life. Facing the unknown, Malorie finds love, hope and a new beginning only for it to unravel. Now she must flee with her two children down a treacherous river to the one place left that may offer sanctuary. But to survive, they’ll have to undertake the perilous two-day journey blindfolded. (Netflix)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, and John Malkovich
Writer: Eric Heisserer
Director: Susanne Bier
Rating: R (United States)
Running Time: 124mins
A week ago, Netflix released a new thriller, Bird Box, into few theaters. It makes sense that one would be excited for Bird Box, considering how Netflix has only released its Oscar contenders in theaters. Anticipation grows even further since it shares the same writer as the 2016 masterpiece Arrival. In addition, the film was scored by the legendary duo of Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor. Last but certainly not least, the cast is just excellent. Despite all the right ingredients, Bird Box seems more like a thriller seemingly bought by Netflix after being dropped by a studio. The decision to give this a theatrical release was a baffling one and by the end of the film, once can’t help but wonder why this film, coming from un-filmable book source, was green-lit, much less made.
On the other hand, things started pretty okay. At first glance, Bird Box is visually striking. There’s a tension in the grey and muted green of the opening shots, and the visual texture of a river running in the opposite direction of the camera motion is striking. The camera movement throughout is done quite nicely. Well, that’s about the most this movie offers in terms of quality. Another Netflix film, The Ritual, comes to mind, seeing that these are both movies coming from directors who deserve far better material then the poorly conceived schlock that they are given.
Another huge hurdle was Bullock’s performance as Malorie. Her performance was meant to anchor the film, however, there’s one particular moment in the film where she unfortunately looks meme-able. There were no complexity to her emotions and the way she automatically goes into fight or flight mode was humorous at best. The lifeless expressions and confused movements she exhibits throughout the film seem off, inhuman like, and especially strange, coming from an Oscar winner.
Surprisingly, this cast full of promising new faces (Trevante Rhodes, LilRel Howery, and Danielle MacDonald as Tom, Charlie, and Olympia respectively) and industry veterans (John Malkovich, Sarah Paulson, and Jacki Weaver as Douglas, Jessica, and Cheryl respectively) that all mostly fall flat. Malkovich feels over the top in the worst ways, Paulson’s performance puts in question why she’s so popular, and Rhodes’ part feels oddly one dimensional for such a charming actor. Sure, Weaver does fine work with such little material, and Howery pretty much perfectly conveys his character, however, their performances feel like a huge disappointment.
It’s not to say Bird Box shouldn’t have been made, but the in-adaptability of its source material makes the movie fall flat. Part of what was so enticing about Bird Box was Heisserer’s involvement, but it turns out Bird Box is more in the vein of his scripts for the 2010s remakes of A Nightmare on Elmstreet and The Thing, two films about as far as you can get from Arrival. But hey, if we can keep giving Lil Rel Howery parts, movies as bad as this may be worth it.
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