Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on Fire!
Every now and then, a movie or television show becomes incredibly meme-able. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has shown up multiple times, as has Thor: Ragnarok. At the end of 2018, that movie was Bird Box. Sandra Bullock wearing a blindfold was a common sight, as was Tom Hollander holding open Jacki Weaver’s eyes. It seems like just about everyone watched Bird Box at the end of 2018 or the start of 2019 except for me. It just wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t a couple years behind on a few things.
While I will go through elements of the narrative here, as I tend to, there is a really easy way to sum up the way Bird Box works. There is a great deal here that plays a lot like A Quiet Place, which came out much earlier in 2018. Honestly, that’s a pretty favorable comparison for Bird Box. A much less favorable one is that there’s also a lot here that plays like The Happening.
We’re going to start with Malorie (Sandra Bullock), pregnant and antisocial, really seeming to only have contact with her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson). There is word of some strange unrest and mass suicides spreading across Europe and Asia, and these seem to be bleeding into the North American continent. Things go crazy immediately, when, as they are leaving the hospital, they start seeing people killing themselves. After they get in an accident, Jessica gets out of the wreck and walks in front of a speeding truck. Malorie gets pulled into a nearby house at the cost of the woman who saves her.
It's here that we start to make sense of what is going on, at least a little bit. We learn that there is something that causes people to kill themselves when they see it. The house is blocked off and we learn a little about the personalities of the people here. Tom (Trevante Rhodes) becomes Malorie’s protector. Charlie (Lil Rey Howery) believes that what is happening is the end times. Also important here are Greg (BD Wong), who owns the house, and his aggressive neighbor Douglas (John Malkovich), whose wife died saving Malorie. Eventually, we add Olympia (Danielle Macdonald), who is pregnant and due roughly at the same time that Malorie is.
Over time, we see the people in the house deal with issues like running out of food and dealing with people who have seen the entities and have gone aggressively insane rather than killing themselves. They lose a few people along the way—Charlie sacrifices himself for the group and two others eventually steal the group’s car. But because we need things to move on, everything changes when Gary (Tom Hollander) arrives. Tom, we soon learn, is someone who has seen the entities and survived, and when both Malorie and Oympia go into labor, Gary takes the opportunity to start exposing everyone in the house to the entities.
Eventually, we are left with Malorie, Tom, and the two children, who Malorie has decided to call Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) and Boy (Julian Edwards). The next significant event is five years in the future, when Tom and Malorie speak to someone named Rick (Pruitt Taylor Vince), who tells them that they can be reached by a two-day boat trip that, because of the entities, must be done blindfolded. We get a lot of flashbacks to this voyage from the start of the movie on, so it’s not much of a spoiler to say that there are four people who plan to go on the boat trip, but we only ever see Malorie, Boy, and Girl on the boat.
It's not a lie to suggest that a lot of Bird Box really feels like something that we saw in A Quiet Place. The difference, of course, is that A Quiet Place requires everyone to be silent at all times because of the unseen creatures that exist, where Bird Box requires people to move about blindfolded. It is very tense in places because of this—we as the audience can see what is happening while the people on screen cannot. The drive to the grocery store is particularly fraught with danger and is one of the better moments because of it.
That’s the biggest issue I have with Bird Box. Despite the fact that it came out the same year as A Quiet Place, it feels extremely derivative. This may be one of those coincidences that seem to happen in movies all the time, since the principal photography started on Bird Box months before A Quiet Place was released. There’s a lot here to like, but those things are specific moments rather than the whole movie. The fact that it also feels like a significant amount came from The Happening is disquieting as well.
In short, it’s far more meme-able than it is good.
Why to watch Bird Box: Some decent scares.
Why not to watch: Once you get past the initial surprise of things, it feels like ground we’ve walked before.