This Netflix movie, starring the brilliant Sandra Bullock (no one is gladder than I am that she isn’t wasting time in bad romcoms anymore), comes on the back of an absolutely ridiculous level of hype. Thanks in no small part to the Bird Box challenge, in which stupid people act stupid because a stupid movie said they stupid should. Everyone is talking about this damn movie – more than Bandersnatch,for fuck’s sake – and I have no idea why. What is it about Bird Box that has got everyone so bloody excited?
Bird Box, for those of you living under a rock (though Netflix is currently in negotiations to buy out that rock from on top of you and adapt it into at least two seasons of television) charts the fall of humanity after a bunch of unseen ghouls cause the people who look at them to either commit suicide or try and get more people to look at these monsters. It’s a cool premise, even if it reminds us all too much of The Happening. It’s grounded by a solid performance from Bullock as Malorie Hayes, who we follow in the first days of the attack while also flashing forward five years later as she is trying to get herself and her two children to a sanctuary that may or may not be a trap.
It’s these two timelines that feature Bird Box’s biggest strength and biggest weakness. I firmly believe that this would have been a great movie, or at least a good one, if it was mostly made up of the present timeline, featuring Bullock and offspring navigating to the sanctuary. By leaning more into the survival horror aspect of the movie, while also feeding us little snippets of information on the backstory, this could have made Bird Box a really tense watch.
Instead we spend the bulk of the movie’s runtime with the most stupid and boring characters who manage to make the crew of Prometheus look like the bunch of geniuses they were supposed to be. In terms of world-building and set-up, it makes sense to show us the proper outbreak, especially when it features the death of Malorie’s sister who was the only person she felt close to. That’s all we needed to get an idea of what’s going on – especially since Malorie and her children are alone in the present, leaving us just waiting for each character to die, mostly from stupidity, in the past.
At just over two hours, Bird Box is a chore to sit through. Apart from Bullock, there is a tremendous waste of talent here, especially John Malkovich’s over-the-top performance as the most annoyingly half-arsed naysayer in all cinema, and Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes whose grounded performance is let down by the fact that his character is the dumbest person in the entire movie. Seriously, nearly every decision this guy makes leads to someone getting killed.
So, how is this movie such a hit? Is it the challenge that dares real people to be as stupid as the characters? Because it certainly isn’t because this movie is good. It’s dull, it’s stupid, and it’s full of maddening contrivances and shoddy writing. The best, and by far the easiest, Bird Box challenge would be to put your blindfold on as soon as this mess of a movie starts.
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By Kevin Boyle
(header image via NBCnews.com)