Bird Box stars Sandra Bullock as Mallory, a pregnant artist whose sister is killed when an apocalyptic event begins to cause people to take their own lives. Mallory is rescued by Tom (Trevante Rhodes) who helps her get into a nearby suburban home where people are have begun to fortify. Douglas (John Malkovich) is opposed to Mallory coming in the house but the owner, played by B.D Wong, welcomes her.
Also in the home is an older woman played by Academy Award nominee Jackie Weaver, a trainee cop played by Rosa Salazar, a drug dealer played by rapper Machine Gun Kelly and a grocery store clerk played by Get Out standout, Lil Rel Howery. It’s Lil Rel who theorizes that an end of the world scenario has begun. He appears to have plenty of evidence to back up his claim but we will soon realize that why is not particularly important.
Meanwhile, the film jumps 5 years in the future. Mallary is now alone with two young children whom she calls, simply, Girl and Boy. Her refusal to name them is part of a character trait she’s built from the beginning of the story with her own pregnancy which she apparently was never particularly excited about. She was worried when she was pregnant that she could not bond with her child and the unpredictable nature of the apocalypse has only deepened her conviction about keeping a child at a distance.
That distance is important as Mallary must risk the children’s lives by taking them on a perilous journey down an empty river while blindfolded. In the past, our heroes eventually suss out that if you keep your eyes covered and you don’t see the evil that is causing people to take their lives, you can get around these demonic monsters. The only people seemingly immune to the evil are the mentally deranged who will provide a secondary villain as the movie progresses.
Bird Box was directed by Danish filmmaker Susannah Bier from a screenplay by Arrival Academy Award nominee, Eric Heisserer. The film is far from perfect but the tension and the minor touches of humorous jump scares are wildly entertaining. Malkovich is on fire in this movie as the ultimate jerk who just happens to be right all the time while Moonlight star Trevante Rhodes makes for a terrifically hunky leading man for Bullock.
You may have heard all about Bird Box from the memes alone. Netflix has hit a social media goldmine with this sight deprived thriller giving audiences a seemingly endless number of quips and screen grabs of jump scares and hot takes. A scene where a characters eyes are forcibly held open so that she can die at the hands of whatever demon is at play has gone viral with numerous punchlines while Bullock’s fearsome mother figure has been raised up as the ultimate example of tough motherhood because she does everything while blindfolded. Take that deadbeat dads.
Honestly, I don’t know if I love Bird Box or the viral version of Bird Box that has become legend on Twitter. There are blockbuster comic book movies whose supporting characters don’t get shouted out by name on social media yet you can’t help but see twitter users referring to Gary or Olympia or Douglas. The film is a terrifically fun thriller but the film’s other life as a seemingly endless meme generator is even more fun.
Bird Box has many issues, not the least of which is never giving the evil a face or a motivation. The lack of a singular focus for the evil nearly renders the whole of Bird Box as silly as it at M Night Shyamalan’s ‘the tree’s did it’ thriller, The Happening. Bird Box even cribs that films use of the wind as a harbinger of doom plot device. Thankfully, the performances from Bullock, Rhodes and Malkovich never let Bird Box tip completely into parody.
Director Susannah Bier is certainly not doing anything particularly original here, especially in the wake of the far more skillful and terrifying, A Quiet Place having come out in just the last 10 months. But, Bird Box has enough of its own charms and modest scares to stand on its own as a genuinely entertaining popcorn thriller. The memes probably helped more than the film itself to make me recommend Bird Box, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how thoroughly entertained I was by Bird Box.