A Quiet Place (2018)
If they can hear you, they can hunt you.
Sleek, suspenseful and extremely well made, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place does a lot with very little, the flick pretty much playing like a mid-era M. Night Shyamalan movie. Opening via a title card that reads ‘Day 89,’ Krasinski doesn’t waste a second setting the scene, introducing us to his key players, who are gathering provisions in an eerily silent post-apocalyptic New York town. Leading the troupe, we have Krasinski — best known for his work on the US version of The Office (2005-13) — who portrays bearded family man Lee Abbott, his real-life wife Emily Blunt playing his partner, Evelyn. Tiptoeing through a small department store, we meet the couple’s three children, Marcus (Noah Jupe), Beau (Cade Woodward) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds), the latter a deaf teen that wears a hearing aid, the family’s knowledge of sign language perhaps the only reason why they’ve survived for so long.
You see, viewers quickly learn that these people are trying their hardest not to make a sound, our protagonists creeping around in bare-foot (often atop a trail of sand), whispering to one another, mainly communicating through hand gestures (ASL). Either way, it’s clear that this new world is a dangerous place, seeing as a simple slip-up, such as dropping something on the ground, could lead to tragedy. The story kicks into gear when the youngest child, Beau, finds a battery-operated plaything in the store, which he puts into his bag without his parents’ knowledge. While crossing a bridge on their way back home, the toy makes a noise, subsequently attracting what’s decimated most of mankind — blind, long-armed creatures (possibly alien) with ghastly rows of teeth and exceptional hearing that can detect pray from large distances away. Let’s just say, things don’t end well for the Abbott clan.
A year or so later (Day 472), the family is still grieving over their loss, endeavoring to make a new life for themselves at a secluded, isolated farmstead, eating softer foods and playing Monopoly with felt cut-outs and fuzzy balls instead of the traditional tokens. Blunt’s Evelyn is also pregnant, with her hubby readying their quarters to raise a newborn with minimal sound. Lee is also collecting newspaper articles and clippings that could help him find a way to stop the monsters, constantly trying to communicate with the outside world via Morse code and radio. On top of this, Krasinski’s caring father spends a lot of time tinkering with a soldering iron in an attempt to fix a bunch of rummaged hearing aids for his adolescent daughter.
Based on a spec script written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, which was re-worked by John Krasinski, A Quiet Place features very little spoken dialogue, the flick more focused on visual story-telling and ramping razor-sharp tension, filmmakers forcing audiences to fill in certain gaps for themselves. This also means that there’s very little in the way of character development or expository world building. Where did these beasts come from? How much of the planet is affected? Where’s the government/ military in all of this? Once we get to the film’s most harrowing sequence, however, which sees Evelyn give birth in a bathtub while being stalked by the creatures, these questions don’t really matter anymore, as the ensuing drama becomes the sole focus, the family becoming scattered, forced to survive the night and all of its obstacles — be it a protruding nail on the basement stairs, an alien-infested cornfield or the gushing sounds of a burst water pipe.
Sound design plays a major part in A Quiet Place and it’s clear that the sound department team, led by Erik Aadahl, Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), Brandon Jones, 13 Hours (2016), and Michael Barosky, The Forgotten (2004), are having a blast toying with our eardrums, creating a number of edge-of-your-seat moments, the crew making everyday mundane noises something to fear. There are several hair-raising moments presented from Regan’s muted perspective and a wonderful bit that sees Blunt and Krasinski sway to a song that’s being played on her iPod headphones — the film does, however, resort to cheap jump scares more often than I’d like it to. The unnerving score by Marco Beltrami, World War Z (2013), is also a zinger, the subtle composition enhancing the overall atmosphere of dread. I still find it funny that Michael Bay’s production company, Platinum Dunes, produced a film about the ‘lack of sound.’
Although Krasinski does a lot right with A Quiet Place, I do think it has a couple of irksome issues. For one, the movie takes itself way too seriously, and lacks the fun vibe of all those Blumhouse productions. Moreover, some of the specifics, in regards to the monster’s hearing, are a bit inconsistent. For example, why is it that a roaring waterfall can mask a human voice, but the family are afraid of whispering in their soundproof-ish basement? God help anyone with allergies! Plus, why aren’t the beasts attracted to non-human sounds that come from nature, or more importantly, how do they know the difference?
Regardless, with a mere three features under his belt — Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009), The Hollars (2016), and now this — John Krasinski establishes himself as a budding genre filmmaker, one who knows his craft and understands the mechanics of cinema. Commenting on the importance of communication, while exploring that paternal fear of not having prepared your children for the harshness of the outside world, it’s the performances that really drive this narrative. A despairing Krasinski leads the charge with his vivid eyes, the 38-year-old actor-writer-director relaying various emotions through simple stares, whilst the always-impressive Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow (2014), conveys emotional depth, sorrow and even happiness through her über-expressive features. A special mention goes out to deaf Utah-born actress Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck (2017), who apparently helped filmmakers nail certain aspects of ASL on set.
Given that we live in a very noisy reality, it’s easy to see how coupling danger with sound can make for a frightening premise, as having to survive in a silent world would be a horrifying ordeal for anyone to have to live through. Finishing with an empowering scene that had folks in my preview screening cheering, A Quiet Place is a wild, nerve-shredding ride that’s best experienced with a hushed crowd. Now, I just wish that real-life monsters would attack those annoying patrons who chow-down on their popcorn without giving a shit, regardless of their surroundings.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Mr. Movie