Director: John Krasinski
Stars: Millicent Simmonds, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt
Don’t buy popcorn when you go to see A Quiet Place. Go to see it. Absolutely go to see it. Take your best friend who loves an instant classic creature feature. But don’t buy popcorn. Don’t take snacks. Eat beforehand. If you can, try not to get any slurpy drinks either, not just because plastic straws are evil and David Attenborough would curse your name were he ever to find out, but simply because any sound you make will have you tensing in your seat, along with everyone around you. Every creak, every cough will come with a silent apology. The rest of the audience knows you’re trying, too.
John Krasinski (Away We Go, The Office) of all people both directs and stars in this exceptional surprise of a movie; the rightful heir to Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane. Longtime readers will know of my outspoken affection for that movie, and you may as well have been living under a rock to have missed the widespread derision of its straight-to-Netflix follow-up The Cloverfield Paradox. A Quiet Place covers everything lacking in that movie; creativity, suspense and a bunch of people-munching-aliens that you really wouldn’t wanna mess with.
The film opens 89 days after an event. We meet a family scouring an abandoned grocery store. Parents Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) shepherding their young flock Beau (Cade Woodward), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and their eldest, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf. We’re no longer top of the food chain. A presumably alien species has lain waste to the world, skewering anything that makes a noise with their razor-sharp limbs. The creatures can’t see, but their hearing is exceptional. As a result the world has fallen silent. The threat is brutally illustrated in a pre-credits tragedy that sets the stakes for the remainder of the film. If you’ve seen the trailer then you’ll know. It involves a toy space shuttle.
Flash-forward to day 472 and the family have set up a considered life at a nearby farm. Colour-coded lights, warning signals, beacons connecting them to other, distant settlements. What’s more, Evelyn is heavily pregnant (a ticking time bomb of tension for the narrative all on its own). And so it goes. The family eke out an existence through sign language and constant preparedness with not a word spoken.
Or almost not a word spoken. The script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck (along with Krasinski once again) allows for a few whispers and an occasional safe moment for brief words to be exchanged but, for all intents and purposes, A Quiet Place plays out as a silent film. This isn’t Krasinski’s first foray behind the camera, but its his first concerted effort at building and sustaining a stifling degree of tension. His success in this regard is impressive. With the chatterbox tendencies of much modern cinematic fare eschewed, he has crafted a taught and captivating little sci-fi thriller which communicates through broad stroke emotional beats and arresting, beautifully crafted visuals.
It isn’t only the sci-fi paranoia and nail-biting tension that invite comparisons to 10 Cloverfield Lane. In both sound and visuals, A Quiet Place proves incredibly rich. The lighting has a similar feel, contrasting deep blues with warmer yellows and oranges, in effect modernising the oft-reminisced-over feel of 80’s genre favourites. But, instead of rendering the film a product of cheap nostalgia, Krasinski’s engaging use of the camera makes it all feel razor-sharp and of the now. This is a modern take on a beloved subgenre and not a pandering attempt to rest on the laurels of gilded triumphs.
Appropriately for a film with this particular premise, the sound is impeccable. Mercifully light on quiet-loud jump scares, A Quiet Place fills the silences with its generous and affecting score, provided by awards-nominee-in-waiting Marco Beltrami. If his arrangements take us by the hand, then its a journey we’re happy to oblige. It imbues the film – and the central familial connections – with big-hearted, sincere Spielbergian sentiment. Something welcomingly received following a recent shortfall from the man himself.
Lets talk about child actors. Bless ’em, they’re usually pretty annoying, right? Maybe its the removal of dialogue, but young Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe carry their share of the water. Indeed, via looks, gestures and through touch, all players here cement a believable family unit. All members are incredibly easy to root for.
A couple of plot conveniences linger, along with a key discovery that the audience is allowed to make long before the characters. But credulity remains in tact in spite of these minor complaints, largely thanks to the sheer amount of goodwill generated by virtually every other aspect of the production. Krasinski is a humble showman in front of the camera, but behind it you can sense he’s having a blast, playing with the genre toys he has an evident affection for.
Is A Quiet Place actually trying to say anything? That might seem like a churlish question given the narrative content, but where Paramount’s other recent sci-fi belter Annihilation brought with it cerebral nourishment, A Quiet Place is more of an immediate quick fix. But while there may not be as much to linger on here, there’s much to be said for a cinematic experience that grabs you by the collar and refuses to let you go for a single moment. Just be thankful that the studio didn’t decide to jettison this one off to Netflix as well.
Make time to visit the cinema to see this one. Put yourself in different surroundings, where you don’t have the opportunity to pause it, leave the room or start checking your social media. Give it the attention it readily deserves. And remember, don’t buy any popcorn this time because you won’t have the opportunity to chew a single kernel.