Movie Review : Bird Box
Sandra Bullock earned her moniker as America’s sweet heart playing just that in hit action movies like Speed and rom-coms like While You Were Sleeping. In the Netflix-produced movie, Bird Box, she is anything but America’s sweet heart. She is a reluctant American single mum survivor of a post-apocalyptic reality that tests and tugs at the maternal instincts she is unwilling to deal with.
Bird Box opens with that all too familiar crackling two-way radio broadcast message that signals a post-apocalyptic event. This soon gives way to a flashback narrative that introduces us to a melancholic Malorie Hayes (Sandra Bullock) and her sister, Jessica Hayes (Sarah Paulson).
A pregnant Malorie is talked into going for a pre-natal appointment with her doctor as a television broadcast informs us that a mystery mass suicide event is plaguing Russia.
Post the doctor’s appointment, Bird Box wastes no time in unloading the viral mystery it hinted at in the news about the mass suicide in Russia. Perhaps, not since World War Z has the reality of a viral plague hit with such visceral ferocity.
The scene at the hospital where a woman suddenly starts smashing her head against a glass panel until it spiderwebs in disintegration jolts you out of your seat instantly.
You are consumed with the same urgency and fright as Malorie and Jessica as they hurry to their car to get away from the ensuing chaos in the hospital. You are awash with the same sense of foreboding that envelopes them as the viral plague takes hold of people in the streets and a bedlam of vehicular accidents and explosions is orchestrated.
Seeming refuge and respite arrive for Malorie and a handful of survivors in a safe house where they soon discern that pulling down the blinds shields them from whatever it was that was orchestrating the mass suicide.
The survivors, in the dystopia of their post-apocalyptic reality, reflect the diversity pandering of today’s conventional wisdom. Malorie is the independent but melancholic single mum-to-be, Greg (BD Wong) represents the Asian/Gay minority quota, Douglas (John Malkovich) ticks the box for the litigious bordering on racist white male demographic, and of course. Tom (Trevante Rhodes) represents the ultimate proof of diversity; the African American leading man quota.
Playing like a cross between a horror movie and a thriller, Bird Box deploys all the genre usuals to admirable effect. Alternating between flashback and real time narratives, a sense of urgency and increasing levels of fright make gradual progression towards a will-they or will-they-not-make-it denouement immersing the viewer in the experience as it progresses. And, arguably, not since Deliverance, has a paddle boat ride down the river been so filled with knuckle-tightening tension.
Granted there were other survivors but Bird Box was really all about Malorie and her journey to surviving. And this is where Bullock shed her American sweetheart persona to take on the seemingly cold-hearted and singularly focused mien of an unwilling single mother forced to contend with the reality of motherhood, love and surviving in a post-apocalyptic world.
In all that she had to contend with, the one that really stuck out as contrived was the love situation with Tom. There was nothing organic about it. It was as contrived as it was implausible given their surrounding circumstance.
Granted, emotional bonds are wont to be forged in situations of shared peril, but such emotions will typically take the form of lust as exemplified by the laundry room romp scene but to profess a wish for a deep romantic encounter with a stranger barely hours into a post-apocalyptic event just beggars belief.
Bird Box ticked all the boxes in the horror/thriller genre effortlessly at first but as it descended down the river heading towards its denouement unfurling its flashback narrative as it went, it slowly took on the implausible and the contrived. Still, it was a very tense and frightening ride, one you won’t soon forget especially with the internet memes it has inspired. 7/10