By Bradley Lane
Bird Box is another film with a small theatrical release, with a simultaneous wide release on Netflix. By releasing some of the best films of the year (Roma, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Netflix has been trying to take its original programming more seriously, specifically its feature-length films. So, when I heard this high concept sci-fi thriller was a viral hit among audiences, I was hopeful for another quality film for Netflix to add to its line-up. To be clear, Bird Box is not that. Bird Box is a mess of a film plagued by clumsy dialogue, nonexistent character development, rapid and confusing editing and gaping plot holes.
Bird Box is written by Eric Heisserer, the writer behind quality films such as Lights Out and Arrival. However, for whatever reason his writing on Bird Box does not translate well on screen. The character arc he sets for our protagonist, Malorie, played by Sandra Bullock, is clumsy and rendered nearly nonexistent by her contradicting actions. Heisserer also sets up an allegory about human loneliness in the social media age that culminates in the film, almost re-enforcing the idea that we should remain isolated from others for our own well-being. The messaging that the film is trying to get across in its wannabe deep dialogue ends up being rendered completely meaningless by the plot of the film.
The bad writing in turn effects the performances of actors and actresses we have grown to expect more from. Sandra Bullock, portraying Malorie, and Trevante Rhodes, portraying Tom, play their respective parts with heart and sincerity, but are surrounded by lackluster performances that make their effort look out of place. This is especially true in scenes where they interact with Malorie’s two children, who give the worst performances of the film. Additionally, John Malkovich and Lil Rel Howery, who have proven themselves to be talented actors, give abysmal performances that feel more like caricatures than human beings.
It is clear that Bird Box had some lofty goals when it set out to adapt a novel about monsters that you cannot see without going insane or killing yourself on the spot. It’s a hard concept to translate to film, and I give the filmmakers credit where it is due; they did a great job making the creatures feel real and threatening. However, the editing of the movie never gives the audience enough time be able to feel any tension at all. Bird Box is a well-meaning attempt to make an interesting sci-fi film that never managed to get off the ground.
Bird Box is almost a complete failure, had it not been for the worthwhile performances by its two leads.