(director: Susanne Bier; screenwriters: Eric Heisserer/novel by Josh Maleerman; cinematographer: Salvatore Totino; editor: Ben Lester; music: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross; cast: Sandra Bullock (Malorie Shannon), Trevante Rhodes (Tom), Danielle Macdonald (Olympia), Julian Edwards (Boy), Vivien Lyra Blair (Girl), Lil Red Howery (Charlie), John Malkovich (Douglas), Sarah Paulson (Jessica), Jackie Weaver (Cheryl), Rosa Salazar (Lucy), Colson Baker (Felix), BD Wong (Greg), Pruitt Taylor Vince (Rick); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Dylan Clark, Chris Morgan, Clayton Townsend; Netflix; 2018)
“It survives its ill-fate because of a feisty performance by Bullock.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A dark survival drama based on Josh Malerman’s 2014 best-seller sci-fi novel that didn’t work for me. Susanne Bier (“Serena”/”In a Better World”) seriously directs this hard to believe post-apocalyptic horror tale, where most of the world has violently committed suicide. The only way to survive the mysterious plague from outer-space that’s causing the suicides is not to see it. The cheesy script is by Eric Heisserer. The no-nonsense Malorie Shannon (Sandra Bullock) tells her two young kids (Julian Edwards and Vivien Lyra Blair) about the necessity of keeping on their blindfolds for their upcoming canoe trip downriver. A flashback to five years ago reveals the beginning period of the extraterrestrial attacks that have doomed the world. We observe two horse-loving sisters – the pregnant Malorie and the free-spirited Jessica (Sarah Paulson). When the unseen supernatural monsters strike, as announced by the eerie music and a wind gush, Jessica is killed in the suicide rioting that ensues and the reluctant soon-to-be mom Malorie shelters with eight others in the suburban house of the loathsome widower Douglas (John Malkovich). A blindfolded car trip to the grocery story allows Malorie to bond with the also pregnant Olympia (Danielle Macdonald). The sensitive black Iraq war vet Tom (Trevante Rhodes) and Malorie hit it off and in these dire surroundings begin a cautious romance. Others in the area include Charlie (Lil Red Howery), the friendly aspiring writer supermarket clerk, and the wily fast-talking Greg (BD Wong). Through the use of radio communication the group locates an unaffected community and Malorie embarks on the perilous journey to reach this safe haven with the kids. To build suspense, there are a number of plot twists–which leads to a startling conclusion. But the film lacks logic or an emotional punch, as it relies on too many familiar cliched tropes of the genre to be refreshing. It follows the recent similarly-themed A Quiet Place, which received accolades and a good box office for its high-concept narrative, while this one is thought of by most critics as silly. It gets over as a middle-rung post-apocalyptic survival tale. It survives its ill-fate because of a feisty performance by Bullock.
REVIEWED ON 2/1/2019 GRADE: C+