The Internet is a-chirping about Bird Box, the Sandra Bullock-starring post-apocalyptic thriller that achieved what The Happening failed. A pandemic of mass suicides obliterates the world’s population, while a pregnant woman, Malorie, navigates the paranoia-fueled, unstable alliances among a small group of survivors. The film splits its attention between this timeline and one five years later, in which Malorie, blindfolded, attempts to canoe herself and two children down a massive river to escape the pestilence.
Bird Box excels at cultivating paranoia and distress in the viewer. The initial, horrifying set piece depicting the rash of suicides is juxtaposed with the oppressive panoramas of thick forest and rushing water as Malorie’s tiny boat veers wildly in the hands of its blindfolded rower. The film then seamlessly turns into a chamber drama, a style that dovetails well with horror film, as Malorie, in the earlier timeline, finds shelter with a Cinematically Random group of survivors. Naturally, tensions run high and poor decisions get made.
In the vein of strong and silent female leads in films such as Alien, Shape of Water, and A Quiet Place, Sandra Bullock, who says very little, communicates so much with her eyes (when not blindfolded), posture, and movement, and effectively portrays the kind of lingering terror that seeps into a person and forever changes them. She’s unlikable, in fact, and is increasingly so as the movie goes on. Yet we root for her, as Bullock lets Malorie’s hidden depths peek through.
Unfortunately, so much can’t be said for the other characters. John Malkovich co-stars as the token asshole (and as usually, Malkovich excels at that) who ultimately makes the right choice, while Jacki Weaver and BD Wong have completely throw-away roles. Lesser-known actors Danielle Macdonald and Lil Rel Howery shine as two likable characters with backstories that make you care just a little more about them.
Thin character development aside, Bird Box still manages to draw viewers in with its daunting premise: not only do you have to be quiet and trust no one, but you can’t go outside with your eyes open. In fact, you can’t even look at the outside world through a video feed. If you do, you see the killer entity, and you die by way of suicide. The…