The world is bleak these days and science fiction does not let us forget it. "Bird Box" reminds you of what good science fiction is supposed to be, and this Netflix original is a rude wake-up call and underwhelming exception.
Taking place in nondescript Alaska, a domino effect of unexplained mass suicides have circled the globe. Malorie (Sandra Bullock), a pregnant artist to an absentee husband, turns off the news expanding the stereotype of the "emotionally involved" artist rather than a politically involved one.
She is hesitant to become a mother and is unfazed by the way the world is spinning until the plot of "The Happening" takes over.
After a sonogram at the hospital, a woman throws her head against a glass window. Mallory is driven home by her friend Jessica (Sarah Paulson) and Jessica is driven to suicide shortly after. Mallory then finds herself in a home of typecasted actors and characters.
The likes of Charlie (Lil Rel Howery), Lucy (Rosa Salazar), and Felix (Richard Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly) are filler and fodder for a script that is apocalyptic and bare as its dialogue. Not even notables BD Wong as Greg and John Malkovich as Douglas could save this film from its belligerent brevity.
There is something better not seen, a force that no one can face. Perhaps the subject of suicide, as the scene with the woman in the hospital shows, or the scene with Greg taking one for the team in the role of a reverse suicide watch.
Maybe it is bad memories that rear their heads, like the abstract drawings of yet another artist named Gary (Tom Hollander).
"Bird Box" brings nothing but incomplete explanation and speculation, but more so the first than the latter.
First, The Happening-like wind is just that, a wind that forces the viewer to kill oneself. Then it has the voices of those closest to you, a transparent voice that gives the listener the benefit of the doubt. The same voice that does not excuse suicide but does not glorify it either.
The birds drown out these voices of doubt, returning the listener and viewer back to a place of innocence and natural discourse. Fair enough, but what do we make of this film's scattered metaphor of motherhood?
Olympia (Danielle Macdonald) is a millennial mother-to-be, who wants to name her potential daughter after a Disney princess. Malorie offers her a Beanie Baby saying she can give it to her daughter when she is old enough.
Who names their kid after a cartoon character? Who is not old enough for a Beanie Baby? Tom (Trevante Rhodes) stands in as a father-husband figure for Malorie and their relationship is as stiff and sloppy as his backstory. Cliched, dry, and rushed characterization yet again.
The literal saving grace is the unnamed river that takes Malorie and kids in tow.
The most compelling and suspenseful scenes are here and they carry the film unfairly but surely. Malorie is against the idea of being a mother so much so that she calls the boy, Boy (Julian Edwards) and the girl, Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair).
While this may not be a convincing plot point and deliberate use of generic helicopter parenting, or another case of lazy writing, one thing can be said about the ending. It will blindside you for the worse.
"Bird Box" gets five birds out of ten.