A pregnant artist (Sandra Bullock) is thrust into a fight for survival after a mysterious presence causes people to kill themselves if they see it in Netflix’s new sci-fi thriller Bird Box.
As far as recent track records go, Netflix has delivered some incredible sci-fi films (Annihilation) and some not so great ones (Bright). Bird Box falls somewhere comfortably in the middle. The story focuses on Malorie (Bullock) who is propelled into a life-or-death scenario when people across the world begin to commit mass suicide. We soon discover that this is because a presumed extraterrestrial organism causes suicidal feelings when people look at it, luring them in with voices of their past. Malorie soon meets a ragtag group of survivors led by the obnoxious Douglas (portrayed by the ever fantastic John Malkovich). Whilst learning about the early days of this apocalyptic event, the viewer is sporadically transported to Malorie's past where she is on her own with two small children known simply as Boy and Girl. This serves as an interesting but not entirely new concept of slowly learning about the horrifying history of how our characters got to where they are today.
Penned by Eric Heisserer (Arrival) and Directed by Susanne Bier (The Night Manager) this is, at its core, a solid sci-fi thriller that has a great concept but, at most, a commendable and adequate execution. Many people will compare this to arguably the best thriller in recent memory, A Quiet Place, but that is quite simply a ludicrous comparison to make. For a start, Bird Box definitely draws more from Stephen King’s The Mist (brought to the screen by Frank Darabont) with its antagonist forever lurking outside and never making a grand appearance thus leaving the audience with lots of questions, which works in its favour. Secondly, as far as truly spine-chilling and muscle clenching scenes go, Bird Box fails to deliver a vast selection with the only one coming when a group of our survivors go on a supply run at a supermarket.
Our supporting cast is one of the elements that really gives the film its human aspect. Featuring the strong talents of Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story), Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel), Danielle MacDonald (Patti Cake$), BD Wong (Jurassic Park/World) and Jackie Weaver (Animal Kingdom) to name but a few, you can absolutely see that Bier had some interesting characters in mind. Even though a few of them don’t get an awful lot of screen time to develop relationships and character (Machine Gun Kelly’s dialogue is 95% curse words), it doesn’t detract from the fact that they all have their place in the story. Trevante Rhodes’ Tom is one of the key players in the latter part of the film, and he brings some real grounded realism and soul to his performance.
Of course our number one player Sandra Bullock absolutely steals the show in every single scene she’s in. Even the parts where the writing is a little lacking, Bullock manages to paint over the cracks with her electrifying performance. Many of the scenes in the latter part of the first act and the majority of the second are quite simply some lazy attempts at exposition, which is disappointing. However, that is somewhat rectified in the third act as some characters' backstories are cleverly explained. As far as twists go they aren’t that intuitive but, once again, Bullock saves the ship from sinking as it heads into port for its ending.
Bird Box won’t set the world alight with its ultimately lacklustre tension building, but its interesting concept and strong central performance from Sandra Bullock guide the audience through this world of trepidation with power and heart.
BIRD BOX / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SUSANNE BIER / SCREENPLAY: ERIC HEISSERER / STARRING: SANDRA BULLOCK, TREVANTE RHODES, JACKI WEAVER, ROSA SALAZAR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW