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Review: Bird Box (Susanne Bier)

Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson in Bird Box

The supreme banality, in all its contradictoriness, of the middle-brow genre picture returns to the screen, albeit a screen of a smaller size than those to which audiences of the past were accustomed. A movie like Bird Box may once have constituted one of its eras biggest properties - alas, today it appears on our home entertainment systems with little initial fanfare, inflated eventual fanfare (with some justified level of suspicion), and only an insistence of actual fanfare within itself. Bird Box is a reserved movie that seems to announce itself as something grand and unreserved, chaos oddly contained, trapped within a box (partly) of Susanne Bier's making. The Danish director has come under criticism for much of her career for the apparent modesty of her artistic capabilities, but they've rarely been so obviously apparent as they are here, grappling with a strange, pulpy high concept with ambitions of profundity that never appear to suggest themselves within the material. It's fair, then, to conclude that the limitations on this movie are far from Bier's alone, but extend to almost all principle characters involved.

Slick, professional packages such as this rarely disappoint in the instant as more overtly risky movies do, too neutered are they to ever yield to the momentary egregious lapses in judgement that interject rather too frequently. It is precisely that neutered quality, though, that renders them so vividly disappointing in the memory, which is, after all, where most works of art reside to take their long-term effect. Bird Box is often a bizarre work, blighted by nonsensical plot developments, curious casting choices, and horrible dialogue whose earnest delivery doesn't negate its utter lack of credibility so much as it compounds it, yet none of these details are ever permitted to take over entirely and derail the whole enterprise. Instead, the general blandness of Bier's vision, and of Eric Heisserer's dull adaptation of Josh Malerman's novel, washes over everything, reducing it all to a lacklustre haze, stumbling lazily over the same old predictable narrative contrivances we've seen too many times before.

I can't dismiss Bird Box entirely. At its best, it's still not especially good, yet nor is it especially bad either, characterized by at least moderately good artistic intention for much of its runtime. It is, as aforementioned, utterly middle-brow, and adequately engaging, thereby detracting attention from its shortcomings. Sandra Bullock's lead performance is perhaps an apt one - she's pretty expressionless, though wholly convincing, doggedly going through the motions until she and the movie reach their exhausted end. This slog is not in spite of the overall banality, but quite due to it, and surely not at all worth it.

Image Credit: MovieStillsDB

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