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Bullock Thriller Is So Intense You’ll Want to Cover Your Eyes — AFI
Michael Nordine, indiewire.com
Nov 13, 2018 9:49
Susanne Bier's inventive drama is a
welcome addition to the post-apocalyptic canon.
If ever you find yourself trying to survive the
end of the world, don’t look to Malorie (Sandra Bullock) for an inspiring pep
Box” begins with her telling two small children to do exactly as
she says if they want to survive, with the most important lesson being to never
remove their blindfolds — if they look at it, they will die.
know what it is for some time, but the urgency in her voice comes across to us
just as clearly as it does to Boy and Girl (the meaning of whose names — or lack
thereof — will likewise be made clear in time).
“Bird Box”. Photo by Saeed
Bullock convincingly transforms
herself into a gritty survivalist in Susanne
Bier’s gripping thriller, which brings to mind everything from “The
Road” to “The Happening” as it carves a space for itself in the post-apocalyptic
canon. She’s joined in the ensemble by Trevante Rhodes,
Sarah Paulson, John
Malkovich, Jacki Weaver, and Lil Rel
Howery; though all of them contribute to the dour milieu in their own
ways, it’s Rhodes who most impresses. The physical charisma he brought to
“Moonlight” is on full display here, with his Tom acting as the
kind of stabilizing force that out-there narratives like this
Flashbacks set five years before Malorie’s speech reveal that a
spate of unexplained mass suicides began in Eastern Europe before creeping
across the globe, with no one understanding how or why; all anyone seems to know
is that looking upon a certain entity inspires such profound sorrow in the
beholder that he or she is instantly compelled to commit suicide.
pandemic reaches Malorie at the worst possible moment, and the hellish scene
that ensues is more than a little reminiscent of the Sudden Departure from “The
Leftovers”: chaos and confusion that almost feels biblical
in its end-of-the-world scope. One woman bashes her head through a glass window
with the force of a ram locking horns, while another throws herself in front of
a bus to end her inexplicable agony.
That premise — that something is out there
and must be avoided at all costs — is like “A Quiet Place” in
reverse, and further evidence that denying your characters one of their senses
makes for incredibly tense moments. Wondering as to the cause of this affliction
is good fun, even as your thoughts are frequently interrupted by the many
white-knuckle sequences where “Bird
Box” most excels. Bier’s
direction is coolly efficient, which fits the material to a t — anything more
ostentatious would just feel wasteful.
The filmmaker, whose work on “In
a Better World” and “The Night
Manager” have earned her an Oscar and an Emmy, respectively,
doesn’t have much of a background in genre cinema to speak of, but it’s hard not
to wonder what else she could do with this kind of material. She lays out the film’s ideas a little too overtly — ignoring your
problems doesn’t make them go away, in case you hadn’t noticed — but you may be
too busy covering your own eyes in fear to notice or care.
the film takes place five years before Malorie’s would-be pep
talk, which is occasioned by her decision to move herself and the children
downstream. There’s said to be a safe haven somewhere in the woods, as there
always is in stories of this kind, and outside forces have made her current
situation untenable; these scenes almost function as a kind of fragmentary
epilogue, as learning how Malorie came to be here is no less compelling than
watching her float down a river on a rowboat with her eyes covered.
“creatures,” as they’re called, draw people like moths to a
flame: Some appear to hear or see deceased loved ones in the
moment before they kill themselves, while a select few manage to survive their
encounter and devote themselves to forcing others to open their eyes and bask in
its beauty. Removing your blindfold can only end one way, but “Bird Box” makes
you want to look closer nonetheless.
This Article is related to: Film and tagged Bird Box, Reviews, Sandra
Bullock, Susanne Bier
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