Bird Box

A woman and a pair of children are blindfolded and make their way through a dystopian setting.

Bird Box review – Sandra Bullock's Netflix thriller is a bird-brained mess.

the camera to break eye contact. Her Mallory is stern and commanding – Bullock’s in drill sergeant mode, not America’s sweetheart – and she doesn’t care about sounding kind. Outside, there are creatures who will kill you with a gaze.

Two small children stare back in silent fear. She’s spent five years surviving this plague-beast-Armageddon-whatsit, most of them trapped in this house. She’s outlasted the rest of her random roommates, a grab-bag of people who, like her, blundered into the first open door the morning most of the planet got massacred, a baby carriage rolling down the street as though Bird Box wants Battleship Potemkin to make room. Now, she has to shepherd these kids out of their home, into a rowboat, and down a dangerous river – blindfolded. 

Bier and her Netflix producers have made an algorithmic chiller that includes every trend from the sensory deprivation horror of Don’t Breathe and A Quiet Place to JJ Abrams’ mysterious monsters to thunderingly thematic sci-fi like Arrival, which screenwriter Eric Heisserer also penned. Bird Box’s pieces feel forcibly screwed together, a movie marionetted by strings of data code. There’s good scenes and smart ideas, but overall, the movie mostly clomps. 

There’s the classic crowd-pleasers such as Bullock and John Malkovich as an alcoholic crank who blames Mallory for the death of his third wife. (His second, he admits, said hell “couldn’t be worse than being married to me”.) There’s the cult favorites such as Sarah Paulson and Jacki Weaver. And then there’s the exciting flavors, all upcoming actors seized while hot: Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, Patti Cake$’s Danielle MacDonald.

Within minutes, the strangers solve the basic concept of what’s killing the globe, voices overlapping like this horror film could, with one butler tuxedo, suddenly spin into a British farce with people barging in and out of the kitchen in high-pitched crisis announcing things such as: “We need toilet paper!” and “Don’t answer the door!”

That opening lecture lets Bier establish Bird Box’s rules, not that the two tykes listening are any more obedient than puppies. But when the film then jumps back five years to the first day of the attack, where most of the film takes place, there’s zero suspense in watching the rest of the cast get picked off. The what, why and how of the crisis never gets answered. Bird Box only grapples with the question of when – when will each person be stricken with the vicious Visine? – but even the film’s sense of time feels scrambled.

There’s a quick lesson in echolocation, a dozen shots in blindfold-o-vision, sidewalks strung like Theseus outsmarting the Minotaur, and an entire sequence that’s a sales pitch for cars with proximity sensors. However, the back of the audience’s brain is stuck trying to figure out things like: are the monsters hunting their prey, or is it just impersonal? How do the roommates get rid of the corpses? And how offended will the American Psychiatric. 

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