Bird Box paints a bleak dystopian future but there’s something about Sandra Bullock’s performance that makes us care about what’s happening.
Where A Quiet Place forced people into silence lest they die, Bird Box forces one to close their eyes while outside. Imagine a world in which you can’t even appreciate the sunlight while inside. This is the world that novelist Josh Malerman creates and screenwriter Eric Heisserer adapts for the big screen.
Following Malorie’s (Sandra Bullock) speech to Boy and Girl, the three of them set off for a journey downriver. This journey will lead them to safety in a world otherwise gone mad. The film tells a story in a way that follows them during the 48-hour journey while flashback to the previous five years. It’s this backstory that allows the film to set up the how they got in the situation. What happened is plague has taken over Europe where people are suddenly killing themselves for no reason whatsoever. This plague soon reaches US borders at the exact moment Malorie is at the hospital.
Nobody is safe from whatever is happening as long as the outside is visible. After Malorie’s sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson), falls ill to whatever is causing the mass suicides, she turns to Greg (BD Wong) and the cynical Douglas (John Malkovich) for shelter. It’s here where Malorie meets Tom (Trevante Rhodes) and a host of other people. Isolated under the worst of circumstances, relationships are going to inevitably be formed. The innocent Olympia (Danielle Macdonald) soon turns to them for safety.
Grocery store manager Charlie (Lil Rel Howery) is writing a novel about the end of the world. He’s not afraid to poke fun at the dystopian YA novels with bows, arrows, and mazes. He’s also the one person who brings the comic relief! There’s something dystopian about Bird Box and while the body count does rise, it’s nothing like the futures that the YA novels depict. In the YA novels, we know who the villains tend to be. The same cannot be said for Bird Box. Not even by a long shot. What makes things so unique here and even in a different way than the similarly themed A Quiet Place is that we can’t really see these things. Even when those people do look outside, we still can’t see them.
Susanne Bier’s direction of the film is alright. Having not read Malerman’s novel, I’m curious as to whether the whole back and forth is necessary. It gets rather confusing but doesn’t take away from the performances. We meet some interesting characters but we soon find out how meaningless they are as the body count starts to rise. At the same time, Malorie is on a journey of her own and it’s not an easy one. She has to learn how to be a mother when she can’t even open her eyes outside. Sounds take on a bigger meaning when we aren’t looking.
With a threat we cannot see, Bird Box is able to offer us quite a different take on the dystopian future genre.
DIRECTOR: Susanne Bier
SCREENWRITER: Eric Heisserer
CAST: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, Jacki Weaver, Rosa Salazar, Danielle Macdonald, Lil Rel Howery, Tom Hollander, Colson Baker, BD Wong, with Sarah Paulson and John Malkovich