- Movie Rating -

Bird Box (2018)

| December 21, 2018

Is Bird Box the victim of bad timing?  Watching the movie today on Netflix, I kept wondering if my opinion might have been so sour if the movie hadn’t come out in the shadow of other, better end-of-the world thrillers from 2018 like A Quiet Place, Heredity and Annihilation.  Right now, when conversation turns to the best films of the year and those films are so heavy on everyone’s minds, it is a little disconcerting to arrive at this movie which offers a similar scenario but sort of lays underneath them.  It establishes a clever premise, then settles into one of those survivors-knocked-off-one-by-one scenarios, then it spreads on some nonsensical motherhood themes and then bungles its climax to the point that the closing moments feel murky and unconvincing.

I have read more than a dozen reviews that compare it to John Krasinsky’s far superior A Quiet Place and that’s not an illogical comparison.  Both films deal with an end-world situation in which your survival depends on you not doing something that is second-nature to you.  Krasinsky’s film posited the idea that you can’t make a sound or the monsters will get you.  In Bird Box you can’t look at the monsters or you will lose your mind and commit suicide.  The earlier film was better constructed, and gave us a better set of logical scenes to deal with.  Bird Box is so badly constructed that find yourself in a state of frustration after the first five minutes.

For one thing, it opens with a scene of Sandra Bullock in the woods warning two children not to take off their blindfolds, then the movie backs up five years to tell us how to we got to that point.  I HATE this device.  It’s so lazy and cheap and it pulls me right out of the movie.  Worse, there’s no point.  How Bullock came into possession of these two children is not significant enough to merit flashbacks.  This could have been handled in dialogue.  Consider the dead child that Bullock’s character mourned in Gravity.  It was handled in a bit of creative dialogue that built on the character.  Bird Box isn’t that smart.

The flashbacks take place five years ago she was an unmarried pregnant mother with no maternal instincts parlaying her doubts to her understanding sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson) right before the whole world went to Hell.  There’s a plague or alien invasion or rapture or . . . something that causes people to see visions of something personal that makes them want to commit suicide.  We never really get the full picture of what we’re dealing with in that regard.  What we get are a bunch of rag-tag survivors yelling at one another then having tender moments when things calm down.  You’ve seen it before.

Bird Box is based on a 2014 book by Josh Malerman which I haven’t read, but I can safely assume that it works much better on the page then it does on the screen.  There, the visuals in our mind can create what the characters are going through.  Here director Susanne Beir creates some good moments of tension but they are broken up by a distracting flashback/flashforward narrative that wears us down and a climax that runs for emotions rather than conclusions.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.