If you’re like me, then chances are your experience with Netflix’s new film “Bird Box” was born out of our culture’s incessant need to turn everything into a meme. No matter the social media platform I found myself browsing, every third post was dedicated to a picture of Sandra Bullock’s character Malorie Hayes, wearing a blindfold and the caption reading something like, “Sexy singles in your area if you look!”
On top of that, there was also the near-universal word-of-mouth that quickly spread from simply being an enlightening recommendation for film indulgence to just being annoying. The amount of hype this film had almost deterred me from even watching it. When I did get around to it, the latter forced me to go into the film expecting to be disappointed.
The thing is, I wasn’t. “Bird Box” is a better version of M. Night Shyamalan’s 2007 thriller “The Happening.” In both films, an unseen force manipulates people into harming themselves and others, culminating in their untimely deaths. Unlike Shyamalan’s film, however, the denizens of “Bird Box” cannot see that which is devastating them, lest they become victims to its wrath. To combat this, they maneuver their world blind-folded, never entirely sure they will reach their destination.
The film finds its powers within its relentless tone; a foreboding sense of annihilation that is always just outside the door. The characters react accordingly to this threat, which allows for some genuine moments of sincerity from a diverse cast of unlikely allies.
With doom lurking around every corner, I couldn’t help but find myself empathizing with these characters’ isolation. If a film can make me feel depressed and nihilistic about the prospects of my continued well-being, then I know it must be doing something right.
It should go without saying that Sandra Bullock as the film’s main protagonist is a joy to watch, and this is arguably always the case with her, even in projects where the material is less than satisfactory. Bullock conveys just enough cynicism about her situation to come across as a realistic victim to her circumstances, and not an overly pessimistic figure who is unbearable to root for.
As a film reviewer, I’m aware of the negative connotations attached to my title, which seem to stipulate people like myself have to hate what everybody else enjoys. I will admit this is sometimes the case, only because I think audiences are quick to get swept away by visually-pleasing eye-candy and forget to look for areas of substance. “Bird Box,” though, even with its popularity preceding it, feels like a bridge for communities of media consumers that puts them all on proportional pedestals, making them equally susceptible to the film’s entertainment.
I was expecting “Bird Box” to be a rip-off of 2018’s “A Quiet Place”, blatantly cashing in on that film’s success and intrigue. After discovering this film is actually based on a 2014 novel of the same name—with its origins predating films like “The Happening”—I found my main crutch of argument being pulled from me.
With my prejudice effectively destroyed, I actually think “Bird Box” is a much better tale of overcoming adversity than “A Quiet Place.” I say this partially because I can’t get over the unbelievable cheesiness of that film’s ending that has tainted my overall feelings for it.
My only gripe with “Bird Box” is its two-hour runtime. Normally, I expect a length like this in thrillers, but there were times where I would check my phone to see how long I had been sitting there. Upon reflection, the film’s slow-build and gradual stressing of the string can become tedious, instead of foreboding. With that said, I can’t put my finger on what could be cut or shortened to make the film more economical. Perhaps I’m just impatient.
“Bird Box” is a satisfying film that, like with “A Quiet Place,” puts emphasis on the strengths of those who are impaired; in this case, it’s those with visual deficiencies. This imparts an uplifting message that a perceived weakness can actually be a privilege in disguise. In a world where more is always the goal, it doesn’t hurt to meditate on the prospect that less can truly be divine. 4.5/5