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Songbird review: Pity the makers of the ‘Michael Bay COVID movie’ – Polygon

Take a second, only a second, to supply some sympathy for the filmmakers behind Songbird. If folks keep in mind it in any respect, it is going to be as “the Michael Bay pandemic thriller.” The divisive über-director’s title is actually there in the credit of the first mainstream film to immediately handle the COVID-19 pandemic, but it surely’s as a producer. Bay didn’t write or direct Songbird; it’s no extra “his” than A Quiet Place, which he additionally produced.

For that matter, there are lengthy passages the place “thriller” is a questionable description of this film, too. It’s one, at the very least nominally. It has some chases, scuffles, and races in opposition to the clock. However so much of Songbird performs extra like one of these social-hyperlink films from the 2000s, like Crash or Babel, the place items of a star-studded ensemble join with one another, however by no means come collectively as one. That is an apt format to revisit in socially distanced instances, particularly on this movie’s heightened model of latest occasions. In the world of Songbird, COVID-19 continued to mutate over the course of 4 years; the film picks up with COVID-23 demonstrating much more deadly and sooner-performing results. Anybody with the sickness is snatched up by “sanitation” staff and despatched into obligatory authorities quarantine. Others are confined to their homes. The few who stay immune (“munies,” folks name them) can roam round with impunity, offered they preserve their official bracelets useful.

In a single mordant element that feels proper, it appears that evidently the essential factor munies can do with their freedom is trip round delivering packages to everybody else. That’s what Nico (Ok.J. Apa) does, with lots of pit stops to soak up the surroundings and place video-calls to his girlfriend Sara (Sofia Carson), who he has by no means met in the flesh — they’ve by no means gone additional than conversing from reverse sides of her condo door. The pandemic has turned everybody into shut-ins, like Dozer (Paul Walter Hauser), a paralyzed, drone-piloting vet who additionally works for Nico’s boss Lester (Craig Robinson).

Peter Stormare points two people in yellow HAZMAT suits at an apartment door in Songbird

Picture: STXfilms

One of Lester’s shoppers is William Griffin (Bradley Whitford), a document exec who works together with his spouse Piper (Demi Moore) to supply black-market immunity bracelets for a hefty worth. William additionally makes secret visits to Might (Alexandra Daddario), a singer who moved to Los Angeles at the outset of the pandemic, and is now kind of trapped in her motel room. When Sara’s grandmother will get the virus, Nico races to save lots of her from being carted into quarantine. Some characters cross paths. Others by no means meet. And due to the pandemic, some cross paths whereas nonetheless not likely assembly.

This might have been a intelligent leaping-off level, however director and co-author Adam Mason doesn’t appear a lot desirous about cleverness, or the human connections he pretends to lament of their absence. The film extra usually fixates on simulating digital-period immediacy by zig-zagging the digital camera round the characters and regularly chopping to cell-telephone and drone footage. It’s alleged to look each intense and cramped. A lot of the time, although, it seems extra like Mason is hell-bent on maintaining the tops of his actors’ heads out of body at any time when doable. The visuals do match the story, in the sense that Songbird retains the characters busy, zipping round the metropolis after they’re in a position, with out permitting them a lot characterization. The movie’s strategy to world-constructing resembles one thing a ranting, discombobulated YouTuber would concoct.

That’s by no means extra apparent than when the film makes an attempt to cope with the idea of virus prognosis and immunity. Checks which might be capable of immediately detect the virus appear to be ubiquitous (and, per any info the film gives, correct), but proof of immunity seems so troublesome to return by that persons are keen to pay lots of of hundreds of {dollars} to pretend it, for the privilege of touring… the place, precisely, throughout this scary authorities lockdown? At one level, one other character is described as self-evidently immune, as a result of they haven’t gotten contaminated after shut-quarters contact with somebody who has COVID-23. However the sanitation troopers gained’t again off till they scan the character’s bootlegged bracelet.

So the place do actual bracelets come from, if not from individuals who have been uncovered to the virus and by no means catch it? And if the lack of virus after publicity (somewhat than the presence of the virus with none signs) signifies immunity, why is Nico alleged to be in danger of spreading the virus additional? And if the virus might be immediately detected, how does it proceed to unfold at such devastating pace in the first place? Furthermore: Is it enjoyable or instructive to consider pretend pandemic logistics when an actual one continues to rage round the world?

K.J. Apa sits on the floor outside of an apartment door in Songbird

Picture: STXfilms

Songbird gingerly implies that some of its inconsistencies could also be in-world outcomes of authorities overreach, however, Mason and co-author Simon Boyes lack the braveness of their silly convictions. They by no means go into full-on conspiracy territory — really, it is a film that’s Simply Asking Questions. Many who noticed the movie’s trailer feared a grand political assertion; as an alternative, the film gives an ideological muddle that may’t even keep constantly paranoid, fearmongering about “quarantine camps” whereas nodding in approval in favor of drones that may commit homicide. Its dramatic confrontations quantity to a sequence of minor stabbings, some sleight-of-hand, and dumb luck.

Late in the movie, Peter Stormare, as the sinister head of sanitation, tells Nico that their immunity standing makes them gods. It’s an attention-grabbing level, undermined by Songbird showing to kind of consider it. Given Nico’s lack of some other persona traits, his immunity makes him a smug martyr, cursed to chop himself off from others (for, once more, causes that make little sense) whereas he clearly stays happy together with his mysteriously superior immune system. Perhaps the filmmakers shouldn’t appropriate assumptions about Michael Bay’s authorship in any case. Songbird isn’t as costly, noisy, or misanthropic as a correct Bay movie, but it surely’s each bit as cynical, by no means lower than when it’s insisting that it is a hopeful pandemic story. Confronted with a worldwide calamity, here’s a film courageous sufficient to say, “Effectively, it labored out for this jerk, so possibly issues can be all proper?”

Songbird can be accessible for premium digital rental on Dec. 11.

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