The Reel Review

C+

You look, you die. Such is the Medusa-esque premise behind this dystopian Netflix survival thriller, adapted by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival) from the 2014 novel by Josh Malerman. Told through a series of flashbacks, Sandra Bullock is Malorie, a pregnant Michigan woman who survives “The Problem” – no, not her unplanned pregnancy, but rather, a mysterious, mass extinction event in which those who see an unknown entity suddenly kill themselves, typically in epic fashion. Five years later, a blindfolded Malorie is trying to row her two blindfolded children down a raging river to a refuge that she has been told about. So many blindfolds, yet so many loopy plot potholes to navigate! Let’s go!

Given that such a well done novel is saddled with such a sloppy screenplay adaptation, Susanne Bier’s direction is more suspenseful than would be expected. But Bird Box suffers from a “been there, done that” vibe that falls somewhere between M. Night Shymalan’s disastrous 2008 hot mess, The Happening and 2018’s way more thrilling A Quiet Place, in which sound, not sight, is the conduit to mortal danger. It is Bullock alone who makes this film worth seeing, aided by a strong supporting cast – some of which we see plenty of – Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight), John Malkovich and Danielle Macdonald (Dumplin’, Patti Cake$); and some which we don’t – namely, Sarah Paulson and Jacki Weaver (Widows, Animal Kingdom). It’s just a shame that the interesting premise never quite makes it out of the dark.

REEL FACTS

• Michigan resident Josh Malarian says he wrote the rough draft of Bird Box prior to the 2008 release of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, which caused him to worry that his novel might get lost in the shuffle.

Bird Box novelist Josh Malerman.

• Sandra Bullock says she was blindfolded for about half of the filming.

• This is the second collaboration between Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson, following 2018’s Ocean’s Eight.

 

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