With its amazing cinematography and supportive background music, “Birdbox” does better than most movies when it comes to getting the viewers on the edge of their seat and intrigued to see what happens next.
Directed by Susanne Bier, Birdbox intensely portrays an apocalyptic scenario where human beings have to survive without being able to fully perceive the outside world. After a mass suicide takes the world by storm, the situation begins to spread from the Eastern Hemisphere to the West, exhibiting signs of a force that goes beyond just something within the mind. This force drives society to collapse, leaving civilization in a state of ruins. Facing murderous creatures that kill when anyone looks at them, and psychotic handymen doing their bidding, the protagonist Malorie Hayes (played by Sandra Bullock) must survive and escort her two kids to a sanctuary, where there may be hopes for a civilization yet again.
The film switches between two timelines: One where Malorie and her children desperately try to make it to the sanctuary they had heard of, and another taking place five years before, when society just starts to collapse and Malorie is trying to adjust to this new world they now live in.
Birdbox does an excellent job setting the mood and environment. Throughout the film, the music and audio complement every tense and fragile situation there is. Each cinematic shot combined with the aural elements puts the viewer in the eyes of the subject of the current scene.
Generally, the producers of any movie want the audience to feel a certain way as they watch it. Susanne Bier did an excellent job of making the audience feel like they are facing the same problems as Malorie. The viewer often finds themself worrying for both the present and the future of Malorie and all those involved in her life.
Birdbox takes place in an apocalyptic world with a collapsing society with strange creatures no one understands, which is a common theme today. Creating movies that take place in these kind of scenarios are difficult. This is because of the fact that literally anyone else in that same universe could be suffering the same kind of fate, if not worse. So in these movies, why do we feel so strongly about the main character? What is it that makes us root for them and no one else in the story? The answer is perspective. The director has to put us in the shoes of the characters involved, and Birdbox executes this excellently.
Regarding symbolism, Birdbox puts out lots of mementos or symbols for the viewer to latch on to. The most prominent one of course was the box of birds (hence the title). In the movie, the birds served as both a warning and a sign of comfort for the characters. The birds were able to sense when the creatures were near, and basically went where civilization was. However, this negated any of the other symbols planted in the movie. As an example, Malorie’s lover Tom (played by Trevante Rhodes) mentions a necklace he wears as a memento from when he was with the army in Iraq. But the only two prominent moments for the necklace are when he explains it, and when he dies. This movie tries to throw in too many symbols, and in turn many of them become pointless mementos throughout the film, with the exception of the birdbox of course.
Other than that, the movie has a surplus of poorly written dialogue and scattered clichées. There is virtually no character development seen in any of the characters other than Malorie, and the audience is left feeling the same way about any supporting characters from the moment they are introduced until their story ends. Even Tom, who is constantly doing something throughout the movie, feels so far away from the viewer.
There were also some useless characters and plot points. At one point, an ex-cop and a junkie among the group decide that they want to run away together, so they simply steal the group’s car and leave. After that the other characters just complain for a while and then go back to whatever they were doing. There were no consequences following that. What even was the point of a scene like that?
Nonetheless, it was easy to look past these hiccups as the film has no shortage of intense climactic points. In these moments, any flaws within the movie are suddenly nonexistent, and the only thing that matters in the world is Malorie and what she is facing in that moment. That just goes to show how immensely cinematography and music impact the pacing, prominence, and perspective of a character and plot. Overall, Birdbox is definitely the movie to watch for anyone who is looking for an intense apocalyptic thriller.