TL;DR – There are moments of real suspense, and Sandra Bullock is amazing, but the structure of the story holds it back by revealing its hand too soon.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
2018 has been a good year for the suspense thriller/ horror films, we have built on the strengths of 2017, a produced such amazing films as A Quiet Place (see review) and Cargo (see review). I bring A Quiet Place up because after the first few minutes you can tell that this is the film Bird Box is going to be compared to the most, and that is not entirely unfair. As they are both suspense post-apocalyptic films where you have to cover one of your senses to survive i.e. sound, or in this case sight. However, this was less the case of copying a more the case of producers seeing that suspense films are back (also they never left but that is an issue for another day) and optioning different books at around the same time. However, while it is a bit unfair to compare the two while watching you can’t help but do so, especially when the differences between the two are probably the reasons why I liked one more than the other.
So to set the scene, we open in as Malorie (Sandra Bullock) is giving a stern lecture to Boy (Julien Edwards) and Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) about the dangers that they are about to face. They are about to go on a long trip down a river to safety, but along the river at no point can they take off their blindfolds. They make their way down to the water following a safety line that had been set up, uncover their boat and set off for the long journey blind to what is coming. Flashback to five years earlier and Malorie is working in an art studio and is mostly oblivious to the world around her. Her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson) comes over with some food and to let her know something is happening across Europe with people killing themselves, but that is so far away, and they both go to Malorie’s doctor’s appointment. As they are leaving a girl starts killing herself against the windows and everyone realises that whatever it is it has made it to America. So they rush out of the hospital and aim to drive out of the city to Jessica’s farm when Jessica sees something and in an instantly becomes suicidal. After crashing the car, Malorie makes it to a house with some other people as the world around her falls apart.
While I did have some issues with the film, there were also some moments that Bird Box shined. First, Sandra Bullock is amazing in this film, she brings strength to the role and a range that you need to pull this kind of role off. Oh and also a shout out to the young actors, play two very difficult roles. When it comes to the post-apocalyptical world that they are creating there is a good mix of suggestion and action. The fact that you never actually see the monsters was the right move because you will always go somewhere more fighting that they could create. Also, as this is a suspense film, there are those moments that really hit home, like when they hear yelling from the side of the river, or when someone knocks on a door. All of this creates the tension that the film needs going forward and gives a good justification for Malorie’s behaviour. This is also a film that delves into the themes of motherhood, and what it means to be a parent, all of which really come into their own towards the end of the film.
However, there were some issues, and the first is that the structure of the film really takes a lot of the wind out of its sails as it goes on. Throughout the film, you are jumping between different timelines, with the trip down the river being the thematic string that holds the whole film together. However, for me, the jumping between the two timelines was a mistake, even though I can see why they chose to structure the narrative that way. The big reason is that both of the timelines undercut each other rather than supporting or improving the narrative. Because we see the outcome, there is no tension when we find ourselves in a room full of people because we know that they are all going to be dead before we get to the exciting third act. As well as this, every time we cut away from the river to the past, it feels like we are cutting away for the interesting part of the film to get more background. Now, I have no idea if the film would work if you had structured the film chronologically, but the final edit didn’t work for me.
In the end, do we recommend Bird Box? Yes and no. If you like suspense films and post-apocalyptic works, then I think you would like this and its take on the genre. However, for me, it just missed the mark on the tension, and that undercut a lot of the performances, so it probably not a film I would search out to see again.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Bird Box
Directed by – Susanne Bier
Screenplay by – Eric Heisserer
Based on – Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Music by – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Cinematography by – Salvatore Totino,
Edited by – Ben Lester
Starring – Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, Vivien Lyra Blair, Julien Edwards, John Malkovich, Danielle Macdonald, Colson Baker, Lil Rel Howery, Tom Hollander, BD Wong, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Sarah Paulson & Parminder Nagra
Rating – Australia: MA15+
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