Movie Review: ‘Songbird’

Review by James Lindorf

“Songbird” and its producer Michael Bay has been the subject of controversy about the potential callousness of making a film about a pandemic in the midst of one. The debate is about to be revisited as we are amid our highest COVID peak, and Platinum Dunes is releasing “Songbird” through VOD on December 11th, forgoing its initially scheduled theatrical release in early 2021. The Sci-Fi Thriller was directed by Adam Mason (Hangman), who co-wrote along with Simon Boyes, and features an all-star cast that includes KJ Apa (Riverdale), Craig Robinson (The Office), Bradley Whitford (Get Out), Peter Stormare (Fargo), Sofia Carson (Feel the Beat), and Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewel) and more.

It has been four years since the emergence of COVID-23. Over 100 million people are already dead, and a new mutation has made the virus more dangerous than ever. The populous must be scanned every morning to check for signs of infection. If the test is failed, sanitation crews are dispatched to their homes, taking the sick to a quarantine zone. All who resist are killed. “Munies” people who are immune to the virus either work for the government or as couriers delivering everything the people locked in their homes need to survive. The best courier is Nico (Apa.) The former law student works for Lester (Robinson), saving money to take his girlfriend Sara (Carson) and her grandmother Lita out of Los Angeles to an area not ravaged by the virus. When Lita appears to have contracted the virus, Nico races to get the only people he cares about black market badges before the sanitation department cleans their apartment.

Plot-wise there is nothing special about “Songbird.” It is your boilerplate mid-apocalyptic dystopian thriller where it is one man versus the world in an attempt to save the only thing that is precious to him. What sets “Songbird” apart is its stellar cast that it most likely never could have put together under normal circumstances. Various unions asked their members not to work on the film for safety reasons. Still, plenty of people crossed the line to feel close to normal for a few weeks while filming. The cast may have also led to one of the film’s major problems. The is a side story that takes place between record producer Bradley Whitford and YouTube sensation Alexandra Daddario.

Given the world’s state in the movie and the one it was filmed in, it should come as no surprise that the film feels underpopulated. Fewer people means fewer roles to fill. With a story tightly focused on Nico’s troubles, prominent names would be forced to play parts like package recipient 3. If I had to guess, the secondary plotlines like the one with Whitford and Daddario were created after signing onto the project. I am all for seeing more of Whitford, who is excellent in everything, but it is better when it is essential to the story.

“Songbird” is a generally well-made film though there is too much shaky cam for my tastes. The cast and their chemistry make “Songbird” a fun watch that, while inspired by current events, is engaging enough to take your mind away from the pandemic for 90 minutes.

Rating: PG-13
Genre: Mystery And Thriller
Director: Adam Mason
Producer: Michael Bay, Adam Goodman, Andrew Sugerman, Eben Davidson, Jeanette Volturno-Brill, Jason Clark, Marcei A. Brown
Writer: Simon Boyes, Adam Mason
Release Date (Streaming): December 11th, 2020
Runtime: 1h 30m
Production Co: Invisible Narratives, Platinum Dunes, Catchlight Studios, STX Films

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