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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 12, 2019

Bird Box Movie Review: A Thriller Where You're Not Supposed To Look, Or You Die

NETFLIX started operating in 1997 as a company that offers online streaming services of their films and TV shows on a subscription basis. As of 2018, it now has a total of 137 million subscribers worldwide, with 58 million of them in the U.S. alone. It clicked as it made good in its promise to offer original content. As of 2018, they already have 700 original series for their subscribers.

Their hit TV shows include “House of Cards” and “Narcos” (our favorites), “Daredevil” with Charlie Cox, “Stranger Things”, “The Haunting of Hill House”, “Riverdale”, “Black Mirror”. Among their movies are “Bright” with Will Smith, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” that just won best foreign film in the Golden Globes, “The Outlaw King” starring Chris Pine and the current hit, “Bird Box” starring Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock.

“Bird Box” is a suspense-thriller based on the novel by Joseph Malerman and directed by Suzanne Bier (who did the award-winning drama series, “The Night Manager”, starring Tom Hiddleston). It will surely be compared to “A Quiet Place” where aliens have invaded our planet and they hunt humans by the sounds that we make. This time, anyone who merely looks at the predators will quickly lose his sanity and want to commit suicide, something like what happened in “The Happening” by M. Night Shayamalan.

The lead character is Malorie (Sandra) and the story starts in the present when Malorie tries to travel down the river two days away from where they are to find a safe refuge for herself and her two children who have no names but are simply called as Boy (Julian Edwards) and Girl (Viviene Blair). In flashbacks, the film goes back and forth between their voyage on the river and how the story started five years ago.

Sandra as Malorie is a painter who is pregnant and not yet ready to become a mother when the story starts. Her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson) accompanies her to the doctor and they see in the news on TV that there seems to be an inexplicable epidemic in Europe where people are simply committing mass sucide, throwing the world into chaos.

On their way home from the hospital, the apocalipytic epidemic has reached their place. Jessica herself sees the creatures and crashes their car. We ourselves, the viewers, don’t really see the entities and this kind of menacing situation is in line with the philosophy of Alfred Hitchcock that what is not shown is more scary than what is.

Sandra manages to pull herself out of their wrecked vehicle and is saved by a kind woman, who unfortunately, quickly becomes a victim herself and is instantly killed. The woman’s husband (John Malkovich) resents Sandra who cost his wife’s life, but Sandra joins him and other survivors barricaded inside the home of its Asian owner (BD Wong). There are other people in the house, including the elderly Jacki Weaver, another pregnant young woman, Danielle McDonald, and the hunky African American, Trevante Rhodes of “Moonlight”.

The survivors die one by one, especially when a stranger (Tom Hollander) with his own ulterior motive is allowed to enter the house at the time that Sandra and Danielle are about to give birth to their respective babies. This is a very gripping sequence where several characters perish. Five years then quickly pass by and Sandra and the kids end up as the only ones who survived.

Sandra learns about the sanctuary down the river from a walkie talkie and decides to take the risk of taking the dangerous wild river boat ride. She and the two kids have to be blindfolded all throughout the journey so that they won’t see the seemingly supernatural and very powerful creatures.

How the story would unfold in a believable manner is tough to pull off but it succeeds in sustaining our interest for two hours. We become involved the moment Sandra tells the kids that they will take a boat trip that “will feel like it’ll go on forever. You must stay alert and you must never remove your blindfolds or I will hurt you. If you see, you die.”

There’s even a Sophie’s Choice kind of moment where she has to choose between the two kids but this is not pursued. The feeling of claustrophobia manages to absorb us and we find Sandra and the kids totally sympathetic. We root of them and want them to win in their horrible ordeal and fight for survival. There are scenes that unfold from the characters blindfolded perspective and this is where the sound design adds up to the tension and atmosphere of paranoia and terror, aided and abetted by the truly disquieting musical score. “Bird Box” is really worth a look.