Movie Review : Bird Box (2018)
* This review contains mild spoilers *
A week or so after Netflix released Bird Box for streaming, people around the internet started to post videos of themselves doing random tasks while blindfolded. The tasks went from moderately dangerous (i.e pouring coffee) to downright irresponsible (i.e driving a car, boxing). Audiences have been bombarded with post-apocalypse fiction over the last decade, so I was surprised to see people react this quick and this strongly to the latest of a long line of thematically similar films. Is Bird Box a special movie? Uh… well, it’s pretty good. That has to count for something, right?
Bird Box tells the story of Malorie (Sandra Bullock) a reclusive * visual artist who dodged a terrible fate by finding refuge inside a house on a day people started to randomly kill themselves. Everyone that was out on the street either crashed their cars, jumped under oncoming vehicles, bashed their own heads, took whatever means necessary to end their lives. Malorie and her fortune roommates quickly understand that it’s sight that kills and start survival operations blindfolded. Fast forward five years, Malorie is going on a final trip with not one but two kids, trying to find permanent shelter by any means necessary.
So, Bird Box is equal parts A Quiet Place and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, with a hint of Lost added for extra taste. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s merely an intricate thought experiment on what would happen is humanity was suddenly forced to choose between surrendering sight and committing suicide. It’s not very original, but I shouldn’t hold it against the movie for two reasons: 1) the novel was written in 2014 by the talented Josh Malerman, when the idea of surrendering a sense for survival wasn’t already done and 2) the elements might not be original, but the end product is pretty cool. It adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
There’s a lot to like about Bird Box. It might not be the most original post-apocalypse movie, but it compensates by being smart and well-written. If you’re not going to break boundaries, might as well do the job right, no? The subtext and symbolism are particularly interesting. It’s impossible to watch Bird Box and not this of Plato’s allegory of the cave. People locking themselves inside and living their lives based on witnessing the evils of the world without understanding why they happen. That’s why the blindfold is such a powerful symbol. This is also why the ending works so well: it addresses the idea of seeing on a metaphorical level. It’s about “seeing” a better world to build one.
The endtimes (or the fall of society, whatever) is also a profoundly Christian idea, which is reflected in the movie. To be honest, it’s reflected in many movies where characters need to take shelter from point A to an idealized point B, but Bird Box is a strong example of it. The righteous are compelled to a man-made Eden, hidden in the forest, but they have to undergo a life-threatening trip on the river in order to prove their worth. At least, it’s the only explanation I found for Malorie receiving the call from Rick while the world is crawling with crazy, violent looters who seem to conveniently ignore the existence of this safe haven. Malorie and the kids are “chosen”.
Bird Box is a good movie, but I can’t say it’s a great one. It was originally written by Josh Malerman and adapted by screenwriter extraordinaire Eric Heisserer, who both know what the fuck they’re doing, but I can’t say it had that extra oomph that made it particularly memorable. Bird Box has the same limitations that many of its contemporaries: it sets up a mystery that never gets solved, it’s ends up in a situation almost as bleak as when it started and no one is really making sense of what’s happening. While it’s not inherently wrong to build your film like that, it’s not memorable either because it’s been done multiple times before. I hate to say it, but people are reacting to the idea of living blindfolded more than they’re reacting to the movie itself.
* And very pregnant. This is an important detail.