Review: Just look away from 'Bird Box'

The Sandra Bullock-led Netflix thriller isn't worth a glance

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Vivien Lyra Blair, Sandra Bullock and Julian Edwards in "Bird Box."

Never, ever take off your blindfold, Malorie Shannon (Sandra Bullock) tells her young kids in the apocalyptic thriller "Bird Box." "If you look," she warns them, "you will die!"  

It's an intriguing premise, doing for sight what "A Quiet Place" did for sound earlier this year, but it peters out quickly, as this movie keeps walking into walls like it is blindfolded itself. A committed performance by Bullock ends up washing out, thanks to a jumbled script and a mismatched cast that never gels.

A mysterious plague begins in Russia and quickly spreads globally, as anyone who looks at the sky instantly goes crazy and attempts to kill themselves or those around them. We catch up with Malorie and her sister Shannon (Sarah Paulson) as the force hits Stateside, and within minutes the streets erupt in chaos as waves of people are taken over. (Sorry, Paulson fans, but she doesn't last long.) 

Malorie heads to a house where others have taken shelter, including a paranoid homeowner (John Malkovich), a conspiracy theorist (Lil Rel Howery) and a lanky dude covered in tattoos (tattoo covered rapper MGK). Forget the insanity outside, this group can barely survive among each other, a flat commentary on the state of relations between people today. 

"Bird Box," based on Ferndale author Josh Malerman's 2014 novel, jumps back and forth in time between the action in the house and five years down the road, when Malorie travels with her children down a river toward sanctuary. Early scenes are tense, but "Bird Box" soon falls apart as director Susanne Bier ("Things We Lost in the Fire") can't sustain an air of tension or believability. "Bird Box" winds up resembling M. Night Shyamalan's disastrous "The Happening," so maybe Malorie has it right: It's better not to look.


'Bird Box'


Rated R for violence, bloody images, language and brief sexuality

Running time: 124 minutes

On Netflix