Netflix recently announced that over 45 million accounts have watched Susanne Bier’s apocalyptic thriller, Bird Box, since its December 21 release. The streaming service is notorious for keeping its viewership numbers under lock and key, but this record-breaking debut is less than surprising given the film has become a social media phenomenon with viral memes taking over Twitter and Instagram.
Despite its popularity, Bird Box features an A-list cast that is wasted on a lackluster narrative. Based on the book of the same name by Josh Malerman, the film tells the story of nine people who are thrown together when a mysterious entity attacks the population. The only thing they are sure of amid all the chaos is: If you look at “it,” you’ll die.
Before the bedlam begins, a pregnant Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson) open the thriller. Malorie, an artist, appears to be detached from the life growing inside of her and reclusive, taking solace in her apartment and avoiding any human interaction outside of her sister. The pair is on their way to Malorie’s OB/GYN appointment when they briefly turn on the news and learn about the mass mayhem and suicides happening outside.
Jessica is the first major player who sees “it,” taking her life and very nearly taking Malorie with her. Luckily, Malorie isn’t on her own long, as she’s quickly welcomed into a house for survivors. There she meets Douglas (John Malkovich), Greg (BD Wong), Tom (Trevante Rhodes), Charlie (Lil Rel Howery), Felix (Machine Gun Kelly), Lucy (Rosa Salazar), Cheryl (Jacki Weaver) and eventually fellow mother-to-be Olympia (Danielle Macdonald). They do their best to stay alive, shielding their eyes with blindfolds and taking signals from the birds that alert them when danger is near.
Bird Box has potential, but the execution is so poor the film loses its momentum halfway through – mainly because the story lacks substance. At no point in time is there an explanation for why people were suddenly losing their minds once they saw “it.” What did they see? Why were humans the only ones affected by the entity, but animals, like the birds, got away scot-free?
Character development is also missing. Malorie is the film’s lifeline, but so little is revealed about her. How did she become so withdrawn? What’s everyone’s backstory? Besides trying to escape certain death, gaining insight into who these characters are, their motivations, and watching them build stronger relationships would have given the story more depth.
All in all, if you see Bird Box, you won’t die – but you’re not missing much if you don’t.