Thursday, December 20, 2018

'Bird Box': a wan helping of horror

Sandra Bullock joins the post-apocalyptic fray in Bird Box, a movie about a woman trying to find safety for herself and two small children. The situation is dire because the world has been ravaged by a lethal menace that, following current movie fashion, never is really defined. All that's clear is that those who have the misfortune of looking at the world will die, mostly by suicide. Normal vision has become fatal. Director Susanne Bier quickly gets down to business: Bullock's Malorie and her two charges (Vivien Lyra Blair and Juian Edwards) must negotiate a dangerous river to reach their only hope for safety -- and they must accomplish this goal while wearing blindfolds. The movie shifts between this river trip and events that occurred five years earlier when a flight to safety brought a pregnant Malorie into the home of Douglas (John Malkovich). There, a variety of refugees from the ill-defined terror try to survive. These include another pregnant woman (Danielle Macdonald) and a veteran (Trevante Rhodes) who leads an expedition (via GPS) to obtain groceries. The tensions in the house unfold in reasonably predictable fashion until the narrative catches up with itself and rejoins Malorie's river expedition. Comparisons with the far better A Quiet Place seem inevitable with Bird Box coming up a loser in any game of compare and contrast. Bullock gives a strong, fiercely determined performance; the rest of the cast is in equally good form. But in trying to surpass generic horror, Bird Box achieves only limited success.

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