Netflix’s BIRD BOX (2018) is tense but falls short of its potential
Netflix’s Bird Box stars Sandra Bullock and follows a group of strangers forced to navigate their dystopian world blindfolded in order to survive the monsters that roam the Earth.
Bird Box paints itself as a terrifying thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat in similar fashion to 2018’s A Quiet Place which also takes away the use of one of the senses. However, where the film is good and does create some tense scenarios here and there it seems to fall short of its great potential and is not really like A Quiet Place. The story is intriguing from the get-go with an absolutely incredible opening sequence, an unforeseen and unknown threat has forced survivors to navigate the world without the aid of sight and thus terror ensues. The pacing and slow progression of the story works well in building some tension as time goes on but other story choices don’t work quite as well. The story isn’t told entirely linearly and where this typically helps films, I don’t think it helped in this instance. Mainly due to the fact that the setting in which you spend the most time wasn’t the most engaging element of the film. I do believe that if the story was told linearly and a greater focus was placed on Sandra Bullock’s character’s journey with the youngsters it could have been a much greater final product.
The way the story is told does allow for some pretty tense scenarios to unfold that are genuinely engaging however there is a fair amount of downtime in the space between. A number of sequences in the lead-up to a tense scenario just aren’t all that interesting. There’s a subtle creepiness to some of these scenes but with not a whole lot going on the only upside to these scenes are the performances which are strong across the board. A minor gripe I have with the story is that the laws of what is going on are established to where they make sense without an explanation however there is one plot element that isn’t explained. It feels like they didn’t have an explanation so just let it be to serve the story but it doesn’t really make sense.
These performances are from an ensemble cast including a number of big names with plenty of talent to go around. John Malkovich, Trevante Rhodes, Sarah Paulson, Jacki Weaver, Rosa Salazar, and Lil Rel Howery are just some of the many stars in here and all of them contribute to a great ensemble performance. Some of the performances are stronger than others with Malkovich and Rhodes the two main standouts harbouring plenty of great character-centric scenes between them and by far the most convincing of the secondary/main cast. But this is Sandra Bullock’s movie and she is a masterclass when it comes to selling the terror of living or rather surviving in a world where sight is your enemy. Her scenes with the ensemble are great but her scenes with the young Julian Edwards and Vivien Lyra Blair are fantastic. The chemistry she has with those kids is so strong you care for the three of them instantly with barely an introduction.
Bird box is a good thriller that does have some genuinely creepy and edge-of-seat moments weaved into a decent story with strong performances but falls short of what it could have been. A linear story and/or a greater focus and emphasis on Sandra Bullock’s journey through the world would have made for a much more intriguing final product. But it is still a good watch that I recommend checking out if tense horror thrillers are your thing.