Movie Review: “Bird Box”
Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and her sister (Sarah Paulson) see the chaos on the news. People all over Russia are going crazy and killing themselves. No one knows what is causing it, but it is wreaking havoc on the Russian civilization. It is scary and no one knows the cause, but fortunately, it is currently isolated to Russia and has not reached North America. Malorie lives in California and is pregnant, so her sister takes her to the hospital for an ultrasound. It is a standard check-up, but everything changes when people start going crazy and killing themselves all over hospital and the city.
Whatever it is, it has now reached California. Malorie and her sister try their best to get somewhere safe, but the roads are far too chaotic to drive on safely. That is when they happen upon a house of fellow survivors. Malorie has reached safety, but is in the third trimester of her pregnancy. She must find a way to survive in this house of strangers, but more importantly, she must find a way to raise her child in this dangerous new world.
The Pros & Cons
Sandra Bullock (+6pts)
Flash Forwards (-3pts)
John Malkovich (+3pts)
Bad Decisions (-3pts)
The Premise & Crazy People (+6pts)
Pro: Sandra Bullock (+6pts)
There is no doubt about it, Sandra Bullock is a talented actress and she (unsurprisingly) did a great job in this movie. I truly believe that, had the filmmakers chosen another actress, this movie would have felt like little more than a straight-to-television movie. Granted, the movie did go straight to Netflix, but you know what I mean. With Sandra Bullock’s talent, this movie feels worthy of a theatrical release.
Sandra Bullock adds a lot of drama to this character. Malorie is a complex woman who ends up being a complex mother (you will know what I mean if you see the movie). The character has her issues, but she is not one to give up. Malorie is easy to root for, despite her flaws, and Sandra Bullock gave compelling layers to the character. She gave the character complexity that made the movie easy to get invested in.
Con: Flash Forwards (-3pts)
I honestly do not understand what the point of these flash forwards were. At least, I am pretty sure they were flash forwards, but I guess it depends on what you consider the “current” timeline to be. The movie is constantly jumping back and forth between two different timelines. One timeline followed Malorie during the events that occurred when California was initially hit by whatever caused the craziness. The second timeline followed Malorie five years later, as she tried to get two children to another (safer) location.
When thinking about the story, there does not seem to be any good reason to tell the story in a non-chronological way. In other words, there is no need to jump back and forth between timelines. However, the story is fairly straight-forward and predictable. We have seen many apocalyptic storylines before, so my guess is that the filmmakers split the story into two different timelines in order to make the story seem more mysterious. Unfortunately, it was still a straight-forward and predictable story. The flash forwards only ended up disrupting the pacing of the story, and made the movie feel unnecessarily chopped up. To make things worse, the story was made more predictable by flashing forward, which (in a way) spoiled the outcomes of many characters.
Pro: John Malkovich (+3pts)
He was not in the movie much, but John Malkovich made the movie much more entertaining when he was on screen. The guy has such a captivating on-screen presence, and he ends up being one of the more relatable characters (although I do not think the filmmakers intended him to be). His character is the one that does not want to help any survivors not already in the house. He is the character who is only looking out for himself. I believe he was intended to come across as the jerk of the story, but more often than not, he ended up being right and I ended up getting behind what he was saying.
There is no doubt about it, the guy is selfish. However, in order to survive an apocalypse, you sometimes have to be. Maybe it was due to the unique charisma of the actor in the role, but I definitely found myself liking this character even though I do not believe the filmmakers wanted that to be the case. He does not get a ton of screen time, but when this character is on screen, this movie gets a lot more interesting.
Con: Bad Decisions (-3pts)
This is another one of those movies where the plot is pushed forward by having the characters make terrible decisions. There are a few points in the movie where the characters should pretty much have a handle on their situation. However, the plot needs to move forward, otherwise the movie would be pretty boring, so the writers have a character make a bad decision that puts everyone’s lives at risk. It is pretty lazy filmmaking, but happens all too often. The writers write themselves into a corner, then choose the laziest way possible to get themselves out of it. This move does not do this a lot, but it does it enough to make the issue worth mentioning.
Pro: The Premise & Crazy People (+6pts)
I saw the trailer for this movie and thought it was going to be A Quiet Place meets The Mist. That is pretty much what it was, but I am glad I gave it a shot, because it was still entertaining. Much like A Quiet Place, the main character is pregnant, and much like A Quiet Place, the characters need to limit their lifestyle in order to survive. In A Quiet Place the characters cannot make noise. In this movie however, the antagonists take the form of the characters’ worst fear (like The Mist), so the characters must limit their sight in order to survive. The movie has its similarities to movies that came before it, but the movie is still pretty intense, and pretty entertaining.
The mentally insane play an important part of this story. When most characters open their eyes outside, they see their worst fears and end up killing themseves pretty quickly (usually in a horrific way). The mentally insane do not suffer the same fate, however. I do not want to explain this to avoid spoilers, but the mentally insane end up causing major problems for the rest of the characters. I liked this aspect of the story, as I found that it added an extra layer to the movie.
Con: MGK (-2pts)
My issue with Machine Gun Kelly was not that he was bad in the movie. The issue I had was that his character (and one other character), was that it felt like he was randomly written out of the story. The character just kind of leaves without any warning, and without any payoff that could have come later. He did a fine job in the few scenes he was in, but the lack of screen time he got, made the casting felt cheap. It was like the filmmakers just wanted to say that Machine Gun Kelly was in their movie (or like Machine Gun Kelly just wanted to say he was in a movie).
Grade: B- (82pts)
Bird Box was a decent movie. It was hard not to draw comparisons to movies like A Quiet Place and The Mist, but that did not take away from this movie. Bird Box follows a character who struggles to connect with other people, yet is forced into an apocalyptic scenario where she must connect with other people in order to survive. Malorie was a complex main character that Sandra Bullock played flawlessly. The movie has a premise that pulls viewers in, and has a lead actress that maintains that interest, but the movie was not without its problems. At the end of the day, this is an apocalypse story. We have seen stories like this before, and this movie follows the same beats that you would expect from a movie such as this.
In other words, Bird Box is predictable. To combat this, the filmmakers used two timelines (which the story jumps back and forth between) to try to add a level of mystery, but I thought it had the opposite effect. The movie was not any more unpredictable and, if anything, it was more predictable. We see that a lot of characters that are present in the earlier timeline, who are not present in the later timeline, so we can only assume the worst for them. On top of that, the movie is one that occasionally uses poor decision making by its characters as a plot device to keep the story moving. Again, the movie is not without its problems, but I think its pros end up outweighing its cons. It is far from an amazing movie, but it is definitely a decent one.