'Bird Box:' Possibly One of the Best Post-Apocalyptic Thrillers Since 'A Quiet Place'
Mallory Hayes (Sandra Bullock), excels as a woman hardened by the harsh environment, left in the wake of a malevolent spirit that drives its victims to commit suicide, she braves a journey along a river bank towards the unknown with her two young children in toe. Susanne Bier's post-apocalyptic thriller offers a dark atmosphere; and close look at a violent extinction event, that's both chilling and disturbing in its mysterious wake.
Bird Box is a Netflix original movie that premiered on December 21, 2018 and is a sci-fi apocalyptic thriller that will invite you into a chaotic world from the offset. Masterfully lead by hailed Danish director Susanne Bier (The Night Manager) and penned by famed script writer Eric Heisserer (Arrival). Firstly, we're met with Mallory Hayes, the main protagonist/survivor played by Sandra Bullock, who stares at the camera almost daring you to look away as she delivers a stark warning about obeying her authority absolutely without question, to two adorable little five-year-olds who travel with her. They are both named 'boy' and 'girl' to give you a hint that society has long since broken down, even to the point where names are obsolete, and a luxury for a world that was before.
It's a story that is told in overlapping timelines which neatly tell the tale from the beginning of a pregnant woman five years prior to the event, who has given up on building human connections and prefers the isolation of her own home/studio to that of the outside world. This already gives the hint that inside is depicted as a safe sanctuary to that of the outside. Mallory Hayes is shown to be an artist with dark tastes depicting her own state of mind, and through her latest work, shows that she herself suffers from what she describes as an inability to connect with others—which she must strive to overcome as the world around her collapses in the face of the new threat that emerges.
Jessica, as her sister delivers a chilling warning to Mallory, that she shouldn't be afraid to not connect with her child, but that she should be afraid to be alone. This fear will take on greater meaning as the movie progresses. Jessica also gives her sister a warning of what's been happening around the world as an unseen force seems to be driving people in Russia, and most of Europe, insane and to commit unexplained mass suicides across the country. Initially dismissed by Mallory, these news reports will be a foreshadowing of what is to come in America also. Her sister Jessica Hayes played by Sarah Paulson, is her only real connection to the outside world, as Mallory has long since cut any communication with people in her past; including her mother and a past love called Ryan who left her prior to the 'problem.' This was what the apocalyptic event was dubbed in the 2014 break-through novel of the same name by Josh Malerman. This ominous presence unleashes full-blown chaos and destruction soon after Mallory's visit to a near-by hospital for a pre-natal check-up.
One particular moment that stands out, and your attention is swayed towards expertly before this outbreak, is when Mallory spots a woman in an orange jump-suit chatting away happily on her cellphone as she passes. We cut next to that same woman violently smashing her head against the window of the hospital's corridor; as she turns to stare at Mallory with a violent expression on her face. It has a distinct feeling of society tittering on the brink of destruction, like that of The Happening by M. Night Shyamalan, or Stephen King's Cell. Terror and violence soon begin to flood the streets after this; as Mallory and Jessica prepare to escape along the road. One moment changes everything though. Jessica begins to exhibit symptoms of psychosis as she calls out, "What the fuck is that"' to something that Mallory cannot even see. The victims eyes glaze over and become bloody when they see these creatures. Soon after the victim is driven to commit suicide in horribly violent ways. Every time this horrifying possession occurs the audience won't help but be unnerved, and also ask the killer question each time, just what are the characters seeing?
After Mallory loses her sister to suicide, we as the audience empathize with her predicament, as we too are swept along in the oncoming crowds of confused people; trying to escape whatever malevolent force is in pursuit. As Mallory is swept along the crowds; she eventually falls outside the home of a group of survivors; who are held up in the middle of a war-torn California with hundreds of people passing by. Among this group are two strongholds which keep the narrative both interesting and compelling, Trevante Rhodes as Tom the construction worker, who shines light on the malevolent force driving people to kill themselves, after just catching a glimpse of these creatures. John Malkovich stands out as a recently widowed cynical alcoholic with a grudge against the world; who's bleak view often tends to be right when encountering dangerous situations in the aftermath of this extinction event. The group soon learn that it's not only the creatures they need to fear; but also what's left of humanity still outside their walls.
Ultimately, Mallory must overcome her own inability to connect with others, in order to survive the hellish environment they now live in. She must overcome a further hurdle which is to become a mother to the children, who now depend on her to survive. The overlapping timelines to tell the narrative are an intriguing way of showing how Mallory once was; and how people formed her to become much more than just a survivor, but a fully formed person with a family of her own to protect. Both Tom and the children dream of something more than just survival; is what may be key to their family's salvation in the end. Through Susanne Bier's expert direction we are lead to believe that hope may be the greatest weapon of humanity against these creatures; and will lead the family to salvation potentially in the end. That hope is the hope for something more than just survival and a place of safety where the family can be free of fear once again.