Bird Box is the Netflix movie adaption of the same-titled book. Sandra Bullock stars in this intense and terrifying horror thriller by Danish director Susanne Bier. It should hit the right spots for most viewers!
Though, of course, it has been compared a lot to A Quiet Place. However, that comparison really isn’t that relevant.
Sure, A Quiet Place is about being quiet or the monsters will get you, and (on the surface) Bird Box is about not watching or the monsters will get you.
However, the big difference is the fact that the monsters won’t “get you” in this movie. They will make you kill yourself. That alone does make for a very different story – and therefore a very different movie.
Sandra Bullock carries Bird Box
As always, Sandra Bullock shows that she can easily carry a movie. I don’t mean this in the sense that the movie isn’t strong enough without her. But Bird Box is very much the story of her character, Malorie.
First, we get to know her (chronologically, anyway, since the story jumps back and forth a bit) through scenes with her sister.
Her sister is played by Sarah Paulson and it is a delight to see the Ocean’s Eight co-stars reunited. Even if it is just for a few scenes. Their scenes set the tone for both the character of Malorie (Bullock) and the movie itself.
Also, the two very young actors portraying the boy (Julian Edwards) and girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) are heartbreakingly brilliant. Especially, Vivien Lyra Blair blew me away in one very important scene in the boat as Malorie and the kids are trying to escape the monsters.
A gay Asian man is the hero
Unlike what several other reviews are claiming (i.e. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter), the story does not begin with a reluctant Douglas (John Malkovich) saving a group of people by letting them stay at his house. I have no idea how so many film critics are missing this huge point.
The old, angry, white man does not save the day. The gay Asian man, Greg (BD Wong) does. It’s quite an important part of the story since Douglas (Malkovich) refuses to let anyone stay at the house in question. Greg (Wong) however notes quite frankly that this is his house and he won’t let people die when he can save them.
Douglas is the neighbor of Greg and his husband. In other words, he’s one of the people seeking refuge. And apparently in the home of someone he hasn’t been the best neighbor to. Yes, Malkovich does what he does best; Portrays the cold-hearted and cynical man. But in Bird Box, it really does make sense.
Both John Malkovich and BD Wong deliver some beautiful nuances in their scenes together. Something I was personally very sorry to learn many other people (film critics, anyway) missed.
Diversity done right!
I also have to mention Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight) who portrays a war veteran determined to do the right thing. His character, Tom, immediately takes a liking to the strong-minded Malorie (Bullock).
The fact that she’s very pregnant when they meet reminds him of his sister. Even if he’s not a parent, he clearly knows more about what it entails than Bullock’s character. This creates a (somewhat reluctant on Malorie’s side) bond that carries the story.
Again, I love how natural this feels and acknowledge how important it is. Here, we get to see a black man as a father figure rather than a “baby daddy” character with no interest in kids.
Finally, I also have to mention Lil Rel Howery, who once again delivers the perfect amount of comic relief. This was also his job when working on Get Out and he absolutely nails it once again.
In Bird Box, he portrays a struggling sci-fi writer, who works at the supermarket. And this supermarket does end up saving the group of strangers fighting to survive.
In fact, along with Charlie (Lil Rel Howery) it is especially the two other minority characters, Greg (BD Wong) and Tom (Trevante Rhodes) who show true courage under fire. I loved this fact.
Susanne Bier going strong
Of course, we’re probably not 100% objective when it comes to Susanne Bier. She’s a fellow Dane and a female director. Those two things immediately get her points in my book.
Still, what we really love about Susanne Bier is her body of work. The woman has won several awards including an Academy Award, Golden Globe, an Emmy, and an Audience Award at Sundance.
The script is by another favorite, Eric Heisserer. And yes, a huge part of why he’s a favorite is because he writes strong female characters. He recently wrote the brilliant Arrival. While it might sound trivial, I can assure you that after decades of very few female characters with their own power and agenda, it’s so damn refreshing to suddenly have so many.
I’m from the generation that grew up with Alien‘s Ellen Ripley and Terminator‘s Sarah Connor as role models for strong female characters. And that’s about it. Well, except for our beloved horror genre, where “the final girl” was always the “last man standing” (and how about the irony in those two character-descriptions).
These days, we have so many more to choose from and they’re actual full-fledged characters.
Watch Bird Box on Netflix
Bird Box has more elements of drama than some would like. For me, it lifts the story up but, of course, it comes at the expense of more horror and sci-fi. We do not see the monster. But then again, nobody who survives this movie ever does.
The monster is an entity that makes you do things rather than some kind of Godzilla-esque creature that rips you apart. I personally, loved the fact that we never see the monster, since it’s not so much an entity as it is an effect.
Bird Box will be out on Netflix worldwide from December 21, 2018.
Also, it will be out in expanded theatrical release in theaters in the U.S., Europe and throughout Europe, so make sure you catch one of those screenings if possible.
We watched Bird Box at the AFI Fest 2018 world premiere on 12 November, 2018.
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, Sarah Paulson, John Malkovich, BD Wong, Parminder Nagra, Machine Gun Kelly, Jacki Weaver, Lil Rel Howery
A woman and a pair of children are blindfolded and make their way through a dystopian setting along a river.