Netflix’s latest original film Bird Box, directed by Susanne Bier, falls short of being the next A Quiet Place with its drawn-out narrative and a timeline that causes the film to lose its impact.
Post-apocalyptic narratives have been growing in popularity in recent years. The latest film to take a turn with the subgenre is Bird Box.
It quickly becomes clear that the film is about a fight for survival, centring around Sandra Bullock’s Malorie and two children. The film opens five years after an outbreak of mass suicides that engulfed the world in chaos. Malorie must take two children across river to a haven where they will be safe from the unseen forces that have been causing humans to take their own lives. While the survival of the Abbott family in A Quiet Place depended on silence, the survival of Malorie and her children depends on blindness.
Just like Krasinski’s film, Bier’s doesn’t state how the world ended up this way — how these creatures arrived or what they are. But unlike A Quiet Place, the creatures in Bird Box are shrouded in even more darkness and mystery, as they are invisible. The only indication of their presence are the whispers of familiar voices they use to trick the living, the sound of an unnatural howling wind, and the chirps of warning heard from the birds Malorie keeps in a box. We soon learn that there are more threats out there than just the unseen.
But all the suspense and the horrors experienced throughout the film lose their steam quickly. This is primarily due to how the timeline is edited, with the film switching between five years later to five years prior and little bits in between. Strangely, it starts to feel like two different movies with similar narratives put into one that would have made more sense and been more impactful if it had been told in chronological order.
What really makes the film work is the brilliant cast. Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Jacki Weaver, and Danielle Macdonald – fresh off her Netflix debut in Dumplin’ – form the perfect dynamic that works together in the face of death, betrayal, and paranoia.
Sandra Bullock’s heartwrenching performance is one of the film’s highlights, as she mourns the life and loves she’s lost, all while struggling to protect all she has left. The two children in the middle of it all, played by Julian Edwards and Vivien Lyra Blair, are the heart of the film. They were born and raised in the most dangerous of circumstances and don’t know the joys of childhood or even have names.
One of the most touching scenes of the film is when Malorie and Rhodes’s Tom are making their way to the haven beyond the river and stop at an abandoned home. You see the children playing with toys for the first time and Malorie hands them a Pop Tart and says, “This is what strawberry tastes like.” It hits hard as you wonder if they will ever have any sense of normality.
Despite its flaws, the film is at its most poignant in the moments between Malorie and the children. When you get to see the devotion and love they share despite the darkness that surrounds them.
What did you think of Bird Box? Is this a Sandra Bullock movie to rewatch? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Bird Box is available to watch on Netflix.