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BirdBox (dir. Bier)

Image: Sandra Bullock in Bird Box © Property of Netflix [Source: IMDB]

★★★☆☆

Five years after an ominous presence arrives on Earth, driving most of human society to suicide. A mother and her children make a desperate bid to reach a promise of safety two days up the river, without their eyesight to guide them they face a perilous journey.

Director: Susanne Bier. Starring: Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, Trevante Rhodes, Tom Hollander [15]

Trying to avoid the hype around Bird Box is likely just as difficult as it is for the characters in the film to manoeuvre around without their sight. Yet somehow the film manages to fulfil expectations and fall short of them all at once.

First and foremost, Sandra Bullock is always excellent, does she do well here – of course, but it is nothing to write home about. Or in this case on the internet about. Regardless she delivers a strong performance and so does her supporting cast and minor characters. It’s an all rounded well-acted feature with a few less convincing moments here and there that ever so slightly brush up against b-movie quality scenes. It’s a brush with death that the film ventures very close to every now and then that could have turned the experience sour. None the less the film manages well with decent pacing and a score that certainly adds more dynamic to the plot that should really be noticeable here. What this outlines is a real crutch to the films drama. Meaning it is lacking in strong and meaningful engagement, relying on over sympathising moments with melancholic symphonies.

For a film that thinly layers its simple messages, it doesn’t have a whole lot of compassion or understanding itself for its characters. Instead, it brushes over a lot of the human drama for its sci-fi and misses the point completely on what makes post-apocalyptic dramas so engaging. Humans. Dramas and sci-fiction stories like this hinge on the human drama with the sci-fi element being a catalyst to drive the story and push characters to situations that bring out the best or worst in them. It is what made shows such as The Walking Dead so gripping in its early seasons and so lacklustre when it became just about how many zombies they could kill at once. Which perhaps is why I came to think of Bird Box as being better suited to a tv series.

It certainly worked as a movie but there was some juice there, enough to fuel a season of a tv show. Exploring the dynamics of this world, these characters and the situation they were put into early on. Which sadly is quickly skipped through like highlights from a longer season, and its hard punches land soft and fragile at best because there is no dramatic build up or demonstrating of the hardship of their situation. It is a problem that could have perhaps been avoided entirely by not spending most of the film addressing backstory just to outline rules to the monsters. In fact, they had a plot device to explain these rules – the children. I found the river sections of the film to be not only far more engaging and tense. Each moment building on the last and there just was not enough meat in this section hence the relying on backstory but with a few additions to their journey, it could have quite easily been a straightforward tale of a harrowing journey for this mother and her children, making the somewhat anti-climactic ending feel more deserved and fulfilling.

While it is another refreshing idea, is entertaining for the most part and well performed. It ends by feeling more like the first and last episode of a series of a television show but we just get the highlights and none of the deep character development that we should.

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