Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 2018
Directed by
Susanne Bier
124 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Bird Box

Danish director Susanne Bier is well-known for her telling explorations of dysfunctional relationships especially within the context of the family unit so it is surprising to find her helming a genre film, in this case the oft-tackled post-apocalyptic thriller. Relationships, dysfunctional or otherwise are, however, still very much her concern. Although Bird Box has been fairly consistently criticized as a genre film, her refusal to comply with or indifference to conventional expectations is actually what makes her film worth watching.

Bird Box, adapted by Eric Heisserer from a novel by Josh Malerman intercuts between two time periods – a present in which Malorie (Sandra Bullock) is escaping in a dinghy down a river with two small children and a past about five years earlier when she was heavily pregnant and the world as she knew inexplicably collapsed in an tsunami of random murder and suicide. She becomes one of a small group of survivors barricaded in a house who have realized that if they do not look at “something” which is outside they are for the moment at least, safe. The bulk of the film deals with the earlier time period and the dynamics between the people in the house as they try to formulate a plan for survival.

As is typical for the genre the survivors are progressively eliminated until only Malorie and the two children are left.  Despite the cataclysmic order of the events Bier keeps her film on a human scale. Not only is the initial societal collapse portrayed relatively-free of the usually lavishly CGI-enhanced mayhem but, appropriately enough, we never see what it is that is causing the destruction (at one point one of the people in the house peruses a folio of drawings of the thing that recalls Jennifer Kent’s 2014 hit The Babadook which it is pretty safe to say Bier has seen

Although there are aspects to the narrative that raise questions such as: ”What has Malorie been doing in the five-year interval?); “Could anyone really survive all that time wearing a blindfold? and “How could those birds have survived the rapids?” Bier and editor Ben Lester keep the tension taut enough for us to ride over the questions. On the other hand there are also atypical touches like the simultaneous deliveries of Malorie and a woman (Danielle Macdonald) who had been allowed into the house (our own Jacki Weaver plays midwife). These are refreshing variances in a genre in which women often play second fiddle, a status deliberately rejected by Malorie’s confrontation with Douglas, played by John Malkovich, who these days seems to be happy enough to toss off sardonic quips from the sidelines. Although her Malorie remains remarkably well turned-out after five years of roughing it Bullock gives a commanding performance as a woman discovering her strengths as a mother under the most challenging of situations.

If you're looking for spectacular SFX forget it but Bird Box is an unusually affecting addition to the post-apocalyptic genre.

FYI: Scriptwriter Eric Heisserer also scripted Denis Villeneuve's outstanding 2016 extra-terrestrial visitation movie Arrival.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst