Film Review - Bird Box

>> Every few months, Netflix hits its viewers with the latest must-see programs like Black Mirror, Maniacs, and Haunting Of Hill House. The kind of original series that have our social media and social circles buzzing. They are thought-provoking, they elicit emotions, and like many good series or films, they tell us something about the human experience. Bird Box is the streaming service’s latest attempt at one of those original eerie mind benders. However, it misses the mark at points and leaves its viewers scratching their heads for all the wrong reasons.

Including an original concept and actors such as Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, and other interesting names like Colson Baker (better known as Machine Gun Kelly) and Lil Rel’ (Get Out), Bird Box looked like a can't miss film. The story is original yet simple, entities are roaming the earth and if you see them they force you to kill yourself. The film goes back and forth from flashbacks to the present day. The flashbacks consist of Bullock's character Malorie and a group of people barricaded in a house trying to survive. The present focuses on Malorie and her two children rowing down a dangerous river trying to make it to a sanctuary.

The timelines are intertwined relatively well to keep the viewer in suspense as to what happened to the group in the flashbacks and how Malorie and her children got to this point. However, the subplots and deeper reading of the film are where we see things get messy. It is never really explained what the entities are or what their purpose is. This becomes a pattern throughout the film. At times, it seems like Bird Box is trying to pose existential questions but doesn't want to leave the necessary trail of breadcrumbs to expound upon any of them.

Early in the film, Lil’ Rel’s character Charlie gives a theory of a few things the entities could be, but this theory is never supported or even alluded to again. Later in the film, we come to find out that people with mental illness are affected differently by seeing the entities. The mentally ill see them as beautiful and force others to see them usually resulting in their death.

Clearly, there is a conversation trying to be had about mental illness in this film. Unfortunately, like the purpose of the entities, it is touched upon briefly and never revisited. There is no dialogue or scenes later in the film that helps explain what exactly Bird Box is trying to say about mental health, evil, or really any of the existential questions it's trying to pose.

A majority of the dialogue is carried by Bullock, Malkovich and Trevante Rhodes (Tom) to cover up a generally lazy script with characters like Felix (Baker) and Charlie (Lil Rel) as well as the others in the house doing little more than swearing and being there for fanfare.

While I've been critical of the film up until this point, I do find it interesting and original. Bird Box did what many other films have attempted and failed to do and that is create tension and keep the audience wondering what's going to happen next from start to finish. It is a well-shot film, cinematographer Salvatore Totino and his crew did a fantastic job of creating a world for Bird Box. From the bird's eye view shots of the river to the post-apocalyptic suburbs, Totino developed an atmosphere that feels as if it itself is a character.

As I mentioned before, the performances from the lead actors like Bullock, Rhodes, and Malkovich are strong and enough to keep you invested in the characters regardless of their lack of backstory or development. The flaws I've pointed out, however, are also what makes this film unique. Some of the strongest theories for the films subplots and deeper meanings are rooted in thousands of online fan theories. While this may be problematic to some it shows that this film has the potential to be a cult classic in the future and will have people talking for some time.

The film makes you feel like a good horror/thriller should make you feel, on edge and always wondering what's coming next. On its face Bird Box is a solid film carried by good actors with an original concept, look any deeper into it and you may be disappointed. 7/10 <<