Netflix’s newest (and supposedly most viewed in the first seven days) release, Bird Box (2018), is getting a bit too much praise. Maybe everyone is being forgiving because Sandra Bullock is great, or because they don’t expect quality performances in a horror film – but there are number of flaws in this post-apocalyptic drama. While it’s not all bad, I definitely didn’t enjoy it as much as many others seem to have.
Bird Box didn’t warn me about the crappy dialogue
Malorie (Bullock) is leaving the hospital after a check-up on her unborn (and partially unwanted) child when the world starts falling apart. Her sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson), witnesses the phenomenon that can’t be seen leaving Malorie to fend for herself. People are killing themselves and others all over the city when Malorie is rescued by a group who are holing up in a house.
The film cuts back and forth from the beginning of the apocalyptic event and five years after. Malorie is shown with two children – Boy and Girl – getting into a boat and floating down a river trying to reach a potentially safe haven. They’re all blindfolded as a result of the mysterious entities, but the unseen forces aren’t the only threat to the small family.
All of the scenes in the house with the other adult characters – played by some quality talent including Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich, Jacki Weaver, Rosa Salazar, Danielle Macdonald, Lil Rel Howery, Machine Gun Kelly, and BD Wong – are the worst. They feel extremely contrived, and the dialogue only emphasizes how unimportant these moments truly are. The fact that we also see Sandy B alone with two kids only helps to inform us that everyone in that house is unlikely to make it. Thus, we are left just waiting for their imminent demise with a dark hope that their deaths will at least be innovative, entertaining, or devastating. However – with a couple of exceptions – none of that really happens, and these moments are completely unsatisfying when considering the amount of time it takes to reach them. Rhodes, an unbelievably talented actor who may need to get a new agent after taking a role in The Predator and now Bird Box, is given some of the worst lines of dialogue that set up scenes that remind the audience we are watching a movie. The suspension of disbelief here asks a lot, so I expect the human moments to feel grounded in reality; they don’t.
All of the characters in this film seem to be dedicated to making the dumbest choices imaginable. They are quick to be angry about things that they don’t fully understand. Take Greg (B.D. Wong) for example: he realizes that he has security cameras on the outside of the house, and tells the rest of the people by showcasing the control panel while doing so. He has them tied him to a chair so he can watch the security monitors, and hopefully not be affected by the unseen entities. While waiting, he utters generic phrases like, “Come on, you son of a bitch”, and it couldn’t feel more ridiculous.
What makes me the most upset about Bird Box is the comparisons to A Quiet Place it seems too illicit. I’ll admit that AQP has some flaws, primarily found in not trusting the audience to piece together crucial plot elements and thus having them literally spelled out on a whiteboard, but it is a far superior suspense thriller than Bird Box. Bird Box has a few solid moments and an interesting premise, but ultimately I found it lacking and too silly to enjoy. It earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.