Bird Box (2018)
Directed by Susanne Bier
Starring Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, & John Malkovich
Netflix’s 2018 movie Bird Box is a hit. The movie has had more than forty million viewers in its first weeks, and its images have led to a host of Internet memes from clever keyboard jokers. The movie is a standard apocalypse film – man versus the supernatural – but there are some twists. In this case, the monsters in Bird Box are never seen. If the characters in the film see the creature, they are compelled to kill themselves, unless they are insane. But before reading any further, note that there will be spoilers in this review, and that I will only discuss the film and not the book.
The movie has great acting, solid pacing, and the foreshadowing and most of its plausibility issues are decently dealt with. The movie has several parallels with George Romero’s zombie classics Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978). As in the former, a group of strangers must shelter in a house, and as in the latter, they end up in a well-stocked shopping center. In Bird Box, the movie offers a good reason as to why the survivors leave the well-stocked shopping center and return to their house.
The movie has two separate plotlines with two different climaxes. The first is the story of how the survivors get along during the apocalypse. Its climax occurs when a recent arrival to the house turns out to be one of the group of people who are insane, who find the creatures beautiful, and wish to show them to others regardless of the fatal consequences to a sane person. This part of the plot is shown through flashbacks. The second is about how Malorie (Sandra Bullock) takes Boy (Julian Edwards) and Girl (Vivien Lyra Blair) down a river in a boat to a utopian refuge.
A Deeply Serious Movie
This movie is very serious, despite the funny memes it has generated. Its popularity is in no small part due to how its underlying themes fit into the tense metapolitical climate into which it was released. In the survivors-in-the-house part of the film, with one exception, all of the people are impeccable multicultural liberals. One can easily imagine all of the women posting feminist talking points on their Facebook walls and insisting that Michelle Obama is “the most beautiful woman ever!” There are also two black men – one nerdy and cerebral, Charlie (Lil Rel Howery), and the other, Tom (Trevante Rhodes), who is quite manly. There is one Gaysian (B. D. Wong), and a white couple whose purpose is to make a sex scene possible and then run off with the car so that Malorie and the kids must use a boat to get to the refuge.
Douglas (John Malkovich) is the only exception among this politically correct bunch, and acts as their shepherd. He is a grumpy white man who has had three marriages, has filed a lawsuit against the Gaysian and his (unseen) husband, and knows how to handle a gun. This dynamic is comparable to “the Coalition of the Fringes” political Left during those times when that political grouping works.
Bird Box should be seen in the same light as films like Get Out (2017). In the latter film, one sees the breakup of the Obama Coalition expressed artistically as rich whites in the Connecticut suburbs are shown to be exploiting and stealing “black bodies.” Bird Box is a far more serious artistic representation of the breakup of the Leftist, multicultural coalition. In this case, the participants see something which shatters their worldview and then kills them, so they must deliberately avoid seeing it and move to the implausible refuge in the forest.
In the real world, Leftist multiculturalism doesn’t work. The most politically correct anti-racist whites live as far from blacks as possible, and know in their bones that their worldview is false. And yet they go along with this charade with devotion that can only be understood if one sees it as a religion. A person losing one’s faith can be like dying, in many ways. In today’s environment, the mid-grade multiculturalist might feel that should he even take a peek at our ideas, his faith will be shaken to the core. This film is an admission that the ideas of the racially-aware Right are circulating in society; everyone knows it, and a great many people are choosing not to acknowledge it.
Black & White Characters
On the surface, Bird Box can be seen as anti-white. There are two heroic black characters, and all the villains look like Trump supporters. But there is another interpretation of this first, most excellent film from the Age of Trump: it can be seen as an admission of many pro-white truths. For example, as the apocalypse begins in the United States, the President closes the borders. While it is clear in the context of the story that closing the borders is locking the barn after the horses have already been stolen, this is an allegorical admission that closing the borders is a natural response to an immigration crisis.
The next part of the film deals with white supremacy in relation to Douglas. He quickly becomes critical for the survival of those in the house. Douglas makes all the best suggestions, and states that “assholes” survive, while those who aren’t “assholes” don’t – something which is true. When the stranger, Gary (Tom Hollander), arrives, it is Douglas who tries to stop him from joining the community. (Again, with the border security.) He is stopped by Cheryl (Jacki Weaver), who seems to be a sort of feminist cat lady. In the end, it is Douglas who heroically dies saving Malorie and the two babies as Gary rampages. Interestingly, the bald, grumpy, older white father character in Night of the Living Dead is also the one who comes up with the correct survival strategy – retreating to the basement and awaiting the cavalry – even though his suggestion is tragically ignored. The fact that two different movies have such similar characters is a big admission regarding how the world actually works.
Bird Box also shows the limitations of its black characters. All the human antagonists can be interpreted as white Trump supporters, and they are all unsavory. Both blacks, Charlie and Tom, are clearly the good guys. However, if Bird Box had black antagonists, the movie would automatically become something like a racial-warning public service film, and public service films are preachy and boring. Pit black characters as antagonists against white characters, and the film stops being an analogy for the impact of ideas. Blacks in films can be God, a janitor, or a hero, but not a complex villain expressing serious concepts. Additionally, Boy and Girl are white, and Malorie and Tom have not had a mixed-race child together. If such a pairing had occurred, Bird Box would have had twenty million fewer viewers, at least. Most find miscegenation distasteful, but nobody opens their eyes to this reality.