Bird Box review “Unbelievably tense”

Birdbox posterThe end of the world has been presented in many different ways. Huge natural disasters, aliens, even humans themselves, have been responsible for the apocalypse. However, Netflix’s newest release, Bird Box, won’t let you see what is causing the end of the world – because it makes you die.

Bird Box follows Malorie (Sandra Bullock), a pregnant woman who is desperately trying to survive a world where people keep randomly committing suicide after seeing an unknown entity.

This movie might sound a little familiar – it’s only a few months ago that A Quiet Place came out, where the end of the world meant that no-one was allowed to make any noise at all. However, this movie removes possibly the most detrimental of senses: your sight.

It seems quite ambitious to base an entire movie, something that must be looked at, on a premise that involves not looking at anything whatsoever. Yet, somehow, it makes one of the most atmospheric and intense thrillers of the year.

Sandra Bullock in Bird Box

© Netflix

Sandra Bullock is thick skinned, sceptical, and scarred. Her portrayal of a pregnant woman during a ridiculously tough situation is brilliant: she isn’t overly whiny, or overly detached. If her character is in shock, you can see it. If her character is angry, you can see it. Bullock utilises the understated, and doesn’t let the drama of the situation unnecessarily affect her character. She acts as a kind of homing beacon, making sure that the movie doesn’t drift too far away from the realistic.

Because of this, the other characters around her can afford to make a bit more noise. John Malkovich is abhorrent as the arrogant and stubborn Douglas. He’s tough, but this takes its toll on every other character, causing the knock-on effect of everyone not really being his biggest fan.

Each character slots into the story perfectly, but just as you get to like them, they’re stolen from the narrative and fall victim to the mystery beings. It’s unfair and it’s shocking, but it makes really good watching.

However, there are some parts which aren’t quite as exciting to watch. The flash forwards to present day, although necessary, are weirdly boring. There are so many events that could be explored earlier on in the story, but instead are all clumped together at the end, and it makes the ending seem a little bit rushed.

Although, the fast pace of the movie is one of the main creators of its tension. This movie isn’t just nail-bitingly tense; it’s scream at random moments for no apparent reason, tense. The atmosphere is absorbing, and it envelops everything in its path. So much so, that this movie might actually stop you from looking at your phone for the entire  two hours and 15 minute running time. Yes, really.

Despite this, when you think about it – not a lot really happens in this movie. The main storyline is that Malorie wants to reach a compound where it is safe. The majority of the movie is her on a river, and the rest of it is flashbacks. There isn’t really anything else to say about the plot.

Yet, even though it’s simple, it’s effective. It stops you from becoming too confused, haphazardly trying to piece together clues and bits of information until you’re not actually watching the movie: instead, you’re googling theories and trying to figure out the ending before it even happens. You end up actually watching the movie and getting involved, feeling as though you’re part of the story rather than just on the outside looking in.

Overall, Bird Box is uncomfortably tense. It’s likely that a lot of it will be watched through your fingers; not because you’re scared, but because you don’t want to know what will happen. It’s not often that a movie of this calibre is unleashed onto a streaming site instead of onto paying cinema audiences, but for this one, it’s worked. It’s unlucky that it was released in the same year as A Quiet Place, but it brings a new meaning to the genre of apocalypse movie, and it does it with uniqueness. If you want to keep yourself entertained for a few hours, this is the movie for you.

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Tony’s Thoughts

Interestingly enough Bird Box is a continuation of a twist on the body horror genre. Usually, body horror is defined by blood, guts and missing limbs (Akin to Saw, Hostel or The Thing). Movies like A Quiet Place (John Krasinski), Hush (Mike Flanagan) and now Bird Box play on the more subtle body horror of not being able to make a sound, going deaf or blind.

In a movie where sight is very limited, the color palette in many of the scenes was very saturated. I believe this decision in the cinematography gave those scenes a “glossy” dream-like feel to them. Reinforcing the scarcity of the outdoors and the lack of natural light. Much like the creativity behind the score and sound design in A Quiet Place, Susanna experimented with the visual components of the film.

Bird Box is a fun what-if ride told well enough that you care about the characters. It doesn’t fall for cheesy horror-thriller tropes done time and time again. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and only gives clues to the how and why everyone is going mad. The main character arc is a little over the top but that’s an easy price to pay for a fun watch.

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