Jan 23, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
A phenomenon has occurred in the film industry. There has been little fanfare acknowledging it but it is as important as the transition from silents to "talklies" or the demise of the studio system. Cable companies are now major film producing entities. They are not just platforms for entertainment, they are creating the entertainment. TV now engages A-list players in either feature length or multi-episode formats. HBO has Game of Thrones, Hulu has The Handmaid's Tale and Netflix has the popular culture sensation, Bird Box. In its first week of streaming it was viewed by 45 million subscribers. Piloted by Oscar winning director, Susanne Bier and starring America's sweetheart, Sandra Bullock, it was a winner right out of the gate even though it depicts a dystopian world gone mad.
Sandra is an unhappily pregnant artist with a runway boyfriend. Her sister, Sara Paulsen, comes to pick her up for a doctor's appointment. Sara casually mentions a strange scene she had seen on the news of people in Europe committing suicide en masse. Very soon they are both enveloped in the same hysteria. Sandra ends up in a house in Sacramento. The windows have all been covered so that the menace, whatever it is, cannot be looked upon because it is the viewing that causes the death wish. These microcosms of humans grouped together against disaster are always intriguing because of deep characterization that is revealed through their intimate interactions. John Malkovich is the hothead of the bunch, suspicious and out for himself. Australian actress jacki Weaver is tenuous. Trevante Rhodes from Moonlight is heroic. Lil Rel Howery from Get Out provides some small comic relief.
Flash forward several years. Sandra longs for escape and some semblance of normalcy. She hears of an enclave on the walkie-talkie that would provide sanctuary. She must go down a river with two children blindfolded because to look upon the evil means death. The birds are like the canaries in the coal mine. They flutter and chirp in agitation when the diabolical lurks by.
There will be obvious comparisons to A Quiet Place where sound attracts alien demons but actually the book from which this narrative was adapted was published before that film. There are cliches, conventional devices, and melodrama but also there is tension, compassion and adventure. The trip down the river with its swift current bordered by majestic trees is breathtaking. (Filmed in Del Norte county)
Because of its popularity, Bird Box has inspired a strange trend, #BirdBoxChallenge, which functions in the same vein as last year's eating of Tide detergent pods. Teens have been emulating Sandra Bullock by driving cars, bikes, scooters blindfolded. Netflix has issued
a warning that although they appreciate the fact that their film has been well-received they implore people not to hurt themselves.
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