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- Released: December 21, 2018 (Worldwide Release)
- Length: 124 Minutes
- Certificate: 15
- Director: Susanne Bier
- Starring: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Vivien Lyra Blair, Julien Edwards, Danielle McDonald, Lil Rey Howery, Jacki Weaver, Rosa Salazar, Colson Baker, BD Wong, Tom Hollander and Sarah Paulson
The latest effort from Netflix’s ambitious push into film production is a fairly enjoyable flick, despite coming up short in both plot and characterization.
Based on the book by Josh Malerman, Bird Box is an end-of-the-world story with a suitably cold reception both in and out of flashback sequences. Malorie Hayes (Sandra Bullock), two children simply named “Boy” (Julian Edwards) and “Girl” (Vivien Lyra Blair) and other lucky survivors around her attempt to survive, above all else, averting their eyes from an unseen menace that is driving humanity to insanity and suicide. Making use of a premise similar to 2008’s The Happening and last year’s A Quiet Place, Bird Box aims to create natural tension via the removal of vision and the two halves of the film present two varying experiences; one is a very simple journey downstream to escape the disaster and the other is a more claustrophobic affair telling the immediate days after the crisis hits. Both proceed well and the film swaps back and forth to keep the tension flowing. It also works to keep the cataclysmic events ambiguous, a worthy endeavour for Bird Box, but it isn’t done as effectively as its peers; there are few environmental touches or items placed in the background to clue the audience in. We never find the true cause of the phenomenon and as a result, the conclusion doesn’t have a sense of resolution or finality to it.
There’s a very renowned cast in Bird Box, but sadly it isn’t utilised as well as it could be; we’re talking the likes of Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich and BD Wong to name a few. These are all great performers, but the script doesn’t give them much material to work with; the larger number of characters, especially in the flashback sequences, reduces them to tried and true archetypes of the apocalypse. We only hear brief snippets of the character’s backstories and their individual personalities only come into play at specific intervals. For example, two characters (played by Rosa Salazar and Colson Baker respectively) unceremoniously exit the film around halfway through, which brings a very abrupt end to what could have been intriguingly contrasting character arcs. The production ultimately falls short of making you care about the survivors as a result. On the other hand, every actor does a great job of conveying the fear and creeping dread that surrounds the characters; their unique reactions to the end of the world are all well portrayed, which makes for occasional bouts of dramatic conflict. Sandra Bullock is once again brilliant; in the film’s final act she really gets across the paranoia of traversing the wilderness while blindfolded. It’s a shame though that the other characters aren’t nearly as well-developed.
Bird Box’s firmly capable efforts don’t go to waste completely; the performances from every big-name actor are as you’d expect; powerfully emotive for the most part. But the film doesn’t really leverage their talents fully; nor does the plot come together in a meaningful or complete way. There’s still some enjoyment to be squeezed out of its tenser moments but it rarely reaches a razor-sharp edge.
Rating: 3/5 Stars (Fair)