SONGBIRD

DYSTOPIA PORN THAT CASHES IN ON COVID-19

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Jake Watt
16th May 2021

Hollywood's first feature about COVID-19 was always going to be produced by someone with the tact and feather light touch of Michael Bay. You just knew it was going to happen. With 'Songbird', Bay and director Adam Mason have turned a pandemic with a global death toll in the millions into a "sci-fi thriller" about a world in which lockdown is in its fourth year and the infected are rounded up in camps. Delightful.

It's 2024, and the United States has been devastated by another pandemic: the more lethal COVID-23, a mutation of the virus that's somehow caused people to abandon their cars on the nation's highways but increased everyone's ISP speed. Los Angeles is under permanent lockdown and daily health checks are mandatory, the sick hustled off to the mysterious Q-Zone by armed sanitation workers in yellow hazmat suits. Only a small number of the immune are allowed to travel in the streets, leading to an underground economy in counterfeit immunities.

Yet love still blosoms! Nico (KJ Apa, 'The Hate U Give'), a virus-immune bicycle courier, falls for a woman in lockdown, Sara (Sofia Carson), who only he can save from the creepy Emmett (Peter Stormare, 'John Wick: Chapter 2'), the corrupt head of the city's "sanitation" department. In the swankier part of town, Piper (Demi Moore, 'Rough Night') is running a business selling phony immunity passes and caring for her sick daughter while her sleazy record producer husband, William (Bradley Whitford, 'The Call of The Wild', 'Destroyer'), exploits a struggling singer, May (Alexandra Daddario, 'Baywatch').

SWITCH: 'SONGBIRD' TRAILER

Clearly aiming for a mix of Steven Soderbergh's 'Contagion' and 'Southland Tales', the film's diverse influences also seem to include David Koepp's 'Premium Rush', David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet' and Luc Besson's 'The Professional'. As you can imagine, the end result is a dog's breakfast.

Just to hammer home that this film is capitalising on very real anxieties, 'Songbird' was filmed in mid-lockdown Los Angeles in 2020, apparently ignoring a few COVID protocols to do so. This is like making a 'Godzilla' movie while the people of Tokyo are still trying to avoid being squished by a giant iguana.

The film's ideology is also troublesome. Civilians have applications on their phones which can be used to detect if you have caught the virus - if you do, the government is notified and special forces kick down your front door. Quarantine - a key aspect of every government's public health response - is presented as fascist but necessary. Don't even get me started on the "Q-Zones" and the use of that particularly controversial letter as a wacko dog whistle. It even romanticises the gig economy!

This is like making a 'Godzilla' movie while the people of Tokyo are still trying to avoid being squished by a giant iguana.

KJ Apa seems like an okay bloke. I have enjoyed 'Riverdale' on occasion and, of all the actors on that show, he is one of them. But this is such an awful career choice by him. And Bradley Whitford! A guy with starring roles in socially conscious films and TV series like 'Get Out' and 'The Handmaid's Tale' should know better and have plenty of money to live off without taking this job.

The creative team of 'Songbird' straight up took advantage and churned out this mess while the world was still struggling to understand COVID. Demonising the practical measures taken during a pandemic and building a saviour narrative for those who oppose them, 'Songbird' is a relentlessly stupid movie from all angles. Simultaneously poorly made and made in the poorest of taste, this film is undeserving of your time and money.

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