Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Watch on Netflix: Bird Box (2018)

2018 has given us quite a few reasons to believe that women can do more in Hollywood than what they’ve been regulated to. Similar to films released earlier this year such as science-fiction flick Annihilation or romantic-comedy Crazy Rich Asians, the latest apocalyptic adaptation Bird Box is another example of an unexpected film telling a different story than the ones we’re always used to: female roles can be complex, actresses don’t have to stick a certain genre, and men can be more than  the only strong character.

Based on the book by Josh Mallerman, a mysterious virus triggers people into killing themselves sparking an international apocalypse. Mallory, an artistic hermit who's not prepared to give birth to her child let alone the end of the world, must fight to step outside of her shell in order to survive. Forced to live alongside fellow survivors – an Army vet Tom (Trevant Rhodes), a MAGA conspiratorial Douglas (John Malkovich), a young and naive pregnant woman Olympia (Danielle Macdonald) - she has to remain guarded enough to stay alive but also not lose hope in humanity.

Bird Box is Bullock’s show from beginning to end. Though the veteran actress has stepped out of the romantic comedy box before with Crash and Gravity, it’s refreshing to experience the complex emotionally commitment she has for this role. As Mallory, her harsh direct nature towards strangers and loved ones catch you off guard. When she starts to open herself up to people around her, it’s endearing to watch her vulnerability unfold (though I’ve observed this is different in the book). Before and after the apocalypse strikes, an endangering sense of loneliness separates Mallory from other survivors. Though shutting herself in from the outside world might’ve been a defense mechanism that suited her well, being forced to isolate herself the outside world and connect with the only other people around leaves her dealing with that lack of connection. Instead of just being her own island, she has to learn to welcome wanted and unwanted visitors in her quest for survival –where Douglas might use his fear-mongering to shut people down, Mallory speaks up; when Tom reaches out to her, knowing she can protect herself and can use help being protected, Mallory begins to trust him and they find a sense of normalcy again in a dog-eat-dog world. Her journey of learning how to survive not just for herself but with and for others is nothing short of bad-ass.

Even Bullock in the leading role should be enough of a reason to at least check the film out, Bird Box contains elements of surprise from the story's complexity to be more than a one-note horror flick. While Bullock defies expectations of what female characters are capable of, Trevante Rhodes is also given an opportunity to shine. As much as Mallory prefers to be by herself, it’s proven time and time again that some of the best movies let characters of all genders bring out the best and worst in each other. Loosely following in the footsteps of other great post-apocalypse films like Mad Max Fury Road’s Furiosa and Max, neither Mallory or Tom shoulder too much of the story’s weight or stereotypical gender-based traits; they both have space to be their own individuals as well as partners-in-survival.

As much as Bird Box stands on its own with compelling performances and thrilling world-building, the story shares similar elements from films that's not hard to miss: M. Night Shamalyan’s The Happening where unidentifiable airborne virus formulated by nature causes people to kill themselves; A Quiet Place focusing on a survivor’s sense of hearing in order to survive or die (Bird Box uses sight instead); and Blindness where a female protagonist navigates the downfall of humanity as the entire world goes blind except for her. Bird Box takes each of these film’s ingredients – the virus to commit suicide, the delicate sense of sight, the strength and weaknesses of humanity – and improves on the intrigue of what these things can do to people in a post-apocalypse. Ironically, similar to these other films, the only subtle downfall of Bird Box is that the script suffers from weak one-liners and predictable tropes. For the most part, they are easily masked by the actors and direction, but at times, they can feel too B-rated against the rest of the film's A+ atmosphere. While the similarities didn’t deter or ruin the experience for me, the close proximity of these stories might make it difficult to separate the films.

Directed by Susanne Bier, Bird Box is by far one of the best films Netflix has produced. From the story to the production design, the film feels like an apocalyptic nightmare. Though the virus is a seemingly invisible creature that does to afternoon breezes and birds chirping to what Jaws did to swimming in the ocean, Bier’s direction always makes you feel like those monsters are right by Mallory's side. The story accomplishes this by not only chucking different personalities and temperaments together in an isolated house, but also setting up more odds against their survival from characters who don’t kill themselves after seeing the creature and instead goes crazy, and characters having to get creative to go outside for supply runs. Not only does Mallory deal with her own emotional conflicts, but there’s also a real race against the elements that create heart-pounding thrills. Bird Box stands out from the blur of binge-watching streamable films these days.

 Rating: ★★1/2☆
Have you seen Bird Box? What did you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment