The new Sandra Bullock horror-thriller feels so much like a pair with the Emily Blunt led A Quiet Place that it’s kind of hard to believe it’s a coincidence they saw release within the same calendar year. While A Quiet Place took away its characters ability to make any sound or else die, Bird Box strips their sight as they have to remain blindfolded or the monsters will force them to commit suicide. Yeah, it’s one of those high-concept horror films.
Bird Box is actually of a trend lately with apocalyptic horror films. Obviously, the top-rated cable show remains The Walking Dead despite its stumbles. Netflix already gave us the woeful How It Ends starring Forest Whitaker earlier this year. The previously mentioned A Quiet Place has been the best of this bunch and sadly Bird Box doesn’t quite unseat it. First, it should be noted that Sandra Bullock gives a first-rate performance here. She’s often an undervalued actress written-off as a star simply of romantic comedy making, but here like with many of her lesser seen films, she proves she has acting chops to match up with most any actress working today. Still, her gravitas along with the always wonderful John Malkovich and Sarah Paulson serve to underscore the bier issues here—plot and structure.
It isn’t often that structure is an underlying issue for a film, but here we start near the end and spend most of the film catching up through flashbacks. It’s really unnecessary and does more to undercut some of the dramatic tension than anything. You basically know who survives from the opening scenes of the movie, so there’s little to surprise us for the two-hour running time. That’s fine for a regular drama, but for a film very much treading in the horror-thriller territory, you have to wonder why?
That structure also plays into the stumbles of the plot. While the film begins with a great sequence as the world begins to fall apart, it quickly settles into the monotony of survivors holed up with episodic encounters we know will result in someone losing their life. It’s here the film borrows so much from others like The Walking Dead, The Mist, and others. It doesn’t make it a bad film, but it makes it somewhat superfluous when those better works are available. In the end, Bird Box is not a bad movie. If you haven’t seen those other films and love Bullock you’ll likely be entertained. It honestly feels like some judicious editing could have taken it from bloated and structured-to-death to something worth looking at.