I haven’t been able to escape hearing about “Bird Box,” Netflix’s latest movie. Considered a “post-apocalyptic psychological thriller,” A-Poc and I tried it after the kids gave it their approval (though, maybe that should have been a warning). I’ve never been a Sandra Bullock fan, so I must disclose that I was ambivalent going in. And the concept of watching a movie where people are blindfolded almost the entire time was a hard sell, not to mention a bit too similar to “A Quiet Place,” the 2018 post-apocalyptic movie where you can’t make noise.
“Bird Box” begins with Sandra Bullock as Mallory and two young children, living in a post-apocalyptic nightmare where everyone’s blindfolded unless they are indoors with all windows blacked out. She is about to lead them on a journey via rowboat down a river, warning the kids NEVER to remove their blindfolds, no matter what! They don’t bring much with them – blankets, basic provisions, and a box containing birds.
Then it cuts to five years earlier when the apocalyptic pandemonium broke out, starting in Russia where something is causing sudden mass suicides. Mallory is pregnant, and during a routine trip to the hospital for a prenatal checkup, she witnesses a woman commit suicide. Putting two and two together, she and her sister make a run for it, only to see hysteria break out all over the city. It seems there is an entity in the sky that, when looked at, causes a person to go berserk and immediately kill themselves, using whatever means is available.
A sequence of events then follows, which I will not disclose for fear of spoilers, and soon Mallory finds herself alone and being ushered to the safety of a stranger’s home, where a motley crew of individuals have hunkered down to avoid whatever the hell is going on out there.
From here, the movie continues to cut between present day – Mallory and the children blindly rafting down a wide and swift river – and the events that unfolded across the globe, ultimately leading them to this daunting situation. I enjoyed this sequencing; it made for a good pace and gave room to tell two equally important narratives. While watching their perilous journey down the river, I wondered how on earth they had survived five years this way. They were no preppers, so I chocked it up to shit luck and grit. They do go on supply runs, and seemed to manage a meager garden somehow, but life was far short of easy. Not only do they face this unnamed entity, but there are some who can see it, and want everyone else to look. They try to force others’ blindfolds off – doing the evil thing’s work.
It is in these scenes, just when things start to get more interesting, that the movie also starts to fall short. The acting is…
I think Sandra Bullock did okay, in a no-nonsense, scrappy survivor type kind of way. The supporting cast – aside from John Malkovich who is always awesome – was made up of generic characters who seemed to exist only to further the narrative. When they die, you don’t care.
There were many scenes where the suspension of disbelief was just too hard for me. At times, I felt like I was watching “The Walking Dead.” The characters reminded me of Rick Grimes & Co. Meh.
I also found that many of the movie’s interesting turns didn’t go far enough. I wanted to know more about this entity, and what people saw when they looked at it, especially the people who thought it was beautiful and were immune to its self-destructive ways.
Despite these superficial tendencies, some aspects of the movie tugged at the bigger questions, which I liked. There is an underlying theme about motherhood – what it means to be a mother, what a mother will do to protect her children, and what she will sacrifice. As a parent, it made me imagine the tough decisions I would have to make in a post-apocalyptic world when I also have the safety of my children to consider. I wondered how brave I’d be. Whether I’d have the strength to avoid the entity. How I’d keep them alive.
I endured a few hard-to-believe blindfolded gunfights and the questionable navigation down the river to arrive at an ending that felt abrupt and anti-climactic.
In the end, the movie was more original than I’d originally expected – but it just wasn’t executed to its full potential. There were a few too many plot holes and spots skimmed over, not enough answers, and… Sandra Bullock.
Lastly, there’s the title. The bird box, or cage in some instances, seemed wholly unnecessary except for a few key moments. I kept thinking the bird box was going to offer some answers or at least have a hidden message. You can decide whether it did or not. I considered that blindness throughout the movie could have potential meanings, just one of which is synonymous with being caged, like the birds. Beyond that, I think it was just a catchy title.
Ultimately, I think this movie is good for the teenage and young adult sector, or someone who just likes a quick, suspenseful story and doesn’t have many expectations. I’ve heard that there is now a Bird Box Challenge out there, the stupidity of which is nearly equal to the Tide Pod Challenge. So, perhaps this movie is not great for the teen or young adult sector, either.
I give it 2 out 5 mushroom clouds.
All of that said, “Bird Box” is being added to our complete list of post-apocalyptic movies.