After an unprecedented 2018, this is a great way to begin 2019. A ballsy post-apocalyptic drama which brought me close to falling off my seat on several occasions, Bird Box is that thriller which we all have been waiting for, but none of us knew where to look. It’s stylish, noire-ish whimsical, woefully predictable at times, and yet has room for emotional lubrication.
There is scope for lugubriousness. But director Sussane Brier avoids all excesses of emotional violence, as Malorie (Sandra Bullock) sets off on a long river journey with her two small children (born on the same day, though not twins, if you will!) to escape sure-death in the hands of an unidentifiable presence that has gripped the globe.
No, it doesn’t kill. It just makes everyone commit suicide.
Verging on the outrageous, Bird Box pulls back from toppling over just in time, every time it’s threatened by a narrative lunacy. Partly, the credit for keeping the proceedings credible goes to the performances, not just Bullock who is fine, though I did have a problem accepting trauma on that over-chiselled face. The other actors, specially Tom Hollander who appears midway as a scarily sinister stranger and the brilliant John Malkovich in whose sprawling home Malorie and a ragged bunch of holocaust survivors take refuge.
At times, the plot thickens to a congealed mass of murderous images meant only to shock. Also some of the plot is pure ham, like two women in the sprawling house of survival giving birth to babies at the same time. But it seems outrageous that characters who lose their loved ones minutes ago (Bullock loses sister Sarah Paulson a second time after Oceans 8). Also that all love-shove thing happening between Malorie and a gentle African American Tom (Trevante Rhodes) was a bit too much of inclusiveness at a time when the world seems to be ending.
When the narrative is not busy being a cool student of the ghoul school it succeeds in making us invest in the characters’ fear and anxiety as they are plundered by forces they cannot control.
Happily, the narration does not suffer from a lack of manoeuvring control. Director Biers never loses sight of the plot’s denouement as Mallory and her two children row to intended safety, blindfolded.
I was delighted to see Parminder Nagra, Gurinder Chadha’s football-playing heroine in Bend It Like Beckham cast as gynaecologist. And wow, Parminder even returns for a second scene at the end. Two scenes for an Indian actor. We Indians are really making inroads into the Western cinema. Slowclaps!
Bird Box is beautifully shot, and shows no sign of cost cutting for its shrunken screen format. And that is not necessarily a reason to rejoice.
In both Netflix’s Roma and now Bird Box, I felt a big-screen experience had been diminished by an economical compromise. But then we can’t really crib about the size, even if it matters.
Must-watch: Great Beginning Of The Year For Movie Watchers