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Film Review: Bird Box

23 January 19 words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

The latest big hit from Netflix might have kick-started the craze of daft kids walking around blindfolded, but is actually worth a watch? 

Director: Susanne Bier

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich

Running time: 124 minutes

So, how do I put this? Do you remember A Quiet Place that came out last year? Well, this is that. Or rather, that film is like this film - except instead of being super quiet, it’s all about the blindfold, because this time it’s not about what they can hear, its about what you can see. I feel like recently there’s been a saturation in apocalyptic/Armageddon-style thrillers, a drip feed turned torrent poured into the public subconscious for I don’t know how long. I’m thinking War of the Worlds, End of Days, The Happening (apologies for reminding you of this), The Mist, even Cloverfield. But to be successful, a film needs a new spin on an old formula. This time, its sight. And I get it. After all, what’s more terrifying than something out to get you which you cannot see coming, and which you don’t even know what it looks like? But is this going to unleash a spate of films that are basically the same apart from the fact that they all focus on having to do without each of the five senses?

Out of seemingly nowhere, the world is hit by an end of days plague of epic proportions. Unprecedented madness is spreading rapidly, causing people to immediately and graphically commit suicide (basically it’s The Happening but this time – spoiler alert – it’s not the trees). Beings or creatures of some kind seem to be the cause, though what exactly they are, and what they are here for is a mystery. The problem is, once they’re seen, the madness hits, so maybe its best to leave it to second guesses and run for your life. Who needs to know all the whys and wherefores anyway? 

There were new takes on old twists, but nothing completely surprised me

Sandra Bullock plays an emotionally repressed mother-to-be, Malorie, who gets caught right in the middle of the first wave of insanity. In the ensuing panic, she is swept up with a random group of people all fleeing to the nearest random house, which happens to belong to Douglas (John Malkovich). This rag-tag bunch, made up of a construction worker, a police cadet, a criminal etc. etc. quickly and handily piece together the general goings on outside, and barricade themselves in neatly and efficiently. Though of course, when you get a group of random people thrown together, desperately scared and fighting to stay alive, what could possibly go wrong? 

The pacing of the film is an interesting editing and storytelling choice. There are time shifts back and forth between the start and then five years later when Malorie is desperately fleeing with two small children. This basically takes away the element of surprise. You know five minutes into the film that she ends up, with the kids, alone, so it’s just a case of waiting for each of the random housemates to make a personal exit one by one. That kind of knocks the thriller element on its head a bit. I found the ‘after’ part more compelling than the ‘before’. Having a solitary character fighting blindly for her life and for the lives of two small children is certainly a way to get the old heartrate going and make me stressed for the rest of the evening. 

There were new takes on old twists, but nothing completely surprised me, which was a shame. The creatures’ movements did irresistibly remind me of the smoke monster from Lost. And I enjoyed Malkovich’s performance purely for his sardonic, boozy swagger - which he ends up being sort of vindicated for. I also have a big thumbs up for Trevante Rhodes, Danielle MacDonald and Tom Hollander, they do the best they can with what they are given.  What can I say about Ms Bullock? She’s always been at home in a fast paced, ridiculously stressful and life-threatening situation, it was a role built for her really.  On the whole, it was fine, it was entertaining. I would probably watch it again. But I still think A Quiet Place was better.

Did you know? John Malkovich would talk to the birds on set, and the cast said he had a bizarre connection with them. He would be able to tell them to move their feet and they would.

Bird Box is available on Netflix now

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