It terms of production costs too, with an investment lesser than twenty million dollars, the returns on investment have outperformed some of the more expensive productions from the Netflix stable. Some industry analysts continue to debate that the film might have received greater box-office collections had it been released in cinemas. But this is mere speculation, as no one could simply transpose online numbers as ticket sales at the cinemas.
What is undeniable though, is the star appeal of Sandra Bullock, whose stature as a premiere category movie star and whose base of fan following have steadily increased over the years. With an Oscar award to her credit for her role in The Blind Side (2013), Bullock has lent a certain gravitas to many of her recent projects. Given her propensity to be very choosy with her projects, she must have sensed the value of the script when she was offered the role in the Bird Box. And the responses to the project since its release have only affirmed her intuition. In terms of performance, Bullock’s acting skills in Bird Box should rank alongside her much vaunted performances in Gravity and The Heat.
The casting has been near-perfect with each actor carefully chosen after considerable thought and vetting process. Trevante Rhodes, Sarah Paulson, John Malkovich, Machine Gun Kelly, Jacki Weaver and Tom Hollander, are all award-winning actors with considerable experience and skill. Bullock’s towering screen presence does not in any way detract from their commendable performance.
There have been some criticism over how Netflix’s ambiguity in its certification (or lack thereof) of the film. The standards of grading a moving depending on age-based suitability is very lax or nonexistent in the online streaming domain. Netflix seems to have exploited this lacuna in law to full effect, by pushing violence, bloody imagery, expletives, and sporadic sexual scenes into a secular offering that could be accessed by all age-groups. Netflix should not brush ethical questions under the carpet under the gleam of commercial success. The sooner it answers these questions the better.
On a final note, Netflix is to be commended for how it has not ignored critical reception in pursuit of commercial gains. Sure enough, Bird Box was an out-and-out entertainment flick with no pretensions to be high art. But the same categorization cannot be given to Roma (directed by Alfonso Cuaron) which has created a buzz with its critical acclaim. One can also include Martin Scorsese’ The Irishman, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Velvet Buzzsaw and Panama Papers (starring Meryl Streep) in the list of Netflix masterpieces that don’t sacrifice the art quotient at the altar of profit pursuit.