Movie Review: A Quiet Place
There is a reason that the apex of “the greatest films of all time” list goes by the name “sight and sound”. That is, of course, because it is those two senses that transfer the images on screen into a comprehensive medium, and it is these two senses that fuels John Krasinski’s taut psychological alien invasion thriller. As a pusillanimous game of cat and mouse unravels, so does the audience –as Krasinski orchestrates the seamless chorus of the numbingly quiet sound design and discrete visual paranoia, with an equally bleak and touching tale of a family’s love. Formulating one of the most visceral and physical experiences I have had at the movies, one that even had the activists of obnoxious movie going (you know the type) reserved to the confines of their seats in fear.
Those who disagree will hastily bring up plot holes and the movies at times implausible philosophy of circumstance, however, this would at least hint that those who have a bone to pick are engaged by the confined bone chilling experience. Sure, one could critique the run-of-the-mill daily struggles such as, say, pregnancy, or more simply a cough or a crack of the knuckles as the precursor to the credits, yet it is these daily struggles, and the way the family cleverly avoids demise through intuition that make this picture realistic.
This is refreshingly intelligent and risk-taking horror that doesn’t find it’s characters wandering aimlessly into the bemused cliche of exploring the hauntingly and obviously under-lit room where the problem is lurking in the shadows. These are by and large humane and forward-thinking individuals, and it is no more than their developed nuances and uncontrolled situation that leads to problems. And mark my words, problems do arise.
This is one to catch before reading spoilers, and that is why I will share less than the trailers and makers have disclosed already, which isn’t much. John Krasinski follows up his first two rather disappointing independent directing features ‘Brief Interviews with Hideous Men’ and ‘The Hollars’ (both of which suggested he would not be creating a phenomenal terrorizing movie, but here we are) with an M. Night Shymalan and Hitchcockian-inspired horror flick.
The year is 2020 (which I presume shares a relation to Jeane Dixon’s Armageddon predictions), and like genre pieces that have come before it, a spawn of hideous aliens with bony limbs and obnoxiously large heads and teeth have churned humanity into a sparse few. Though Krasinski, unlike most, does without all the “arrival” bits and hurls us into the thick of it. The opening scene, is as enduring as any in the past few years, ‘The Emoji Movie’ notwithstanding. Though here, that uneasiness is manifested through tactile and confident expectation, as we view the lovely family of five (the Abbots) stealthily scour a convenience store for the essentials. It is here where we are introduced to not only the family, but the tightly framed claustrophobic close ups, the creeping panning camera, and Marco Beltrami’s at once eerie and inspiring score. We also come to find out, that these celestial beings, which are unveiled similar to Spielberg’s slow burn tactics in ‘Jaws’, are blind, relying on their ears: which are translucent trenches embedded into the side of their heads, picking up even the faintest noises.
Following the dire events of the opening act (Day 89), the ‘Quiet Place’ logo takes the screen, followed by “Day 472”. Like all great pictures, we get an understanding for the time, place, characters, and tone within the first fifteen minutes. The place is the rural outskirts of New York, where the Abbots reside in a quaint Victorian farm, and and are doing their best at living the quiet life. They communicate in sign language, which they must have learned years prior due to their daughter Regan’s (played wonderfully by the deaf actress Millicent Simmonds,) deafness. Also, as to not erect clamor and sudden death, they tip-toe the calculated sand trails from hideout to hideout.
Along the way, there are of course, delicious twists, outrageous scenarios, but also, a surprisingly emotional story of family that speaks volumes in a ghastly silent environment. This could simply be derived by the astounding performances that harken to the convincing gravitas of the silent era, or/and the already shared love of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt off-screen. Whatever the case, the care of a husband for his wife and a father to his children plays a vital role, not only in the development of the story, but the audience’s solicitude for the characters.
This can be seen and heard when the couple slow-dances to Neil Young’s overwhelming melody amidst his timeless themes of ‘Harvest Moon’. The world the two are living in however, is anything but timely. It’s a remarkably scary one, where the wind can be felt as prominently as it is heard. Where every creak in the ancient wooden floors seems to be as devastating as the buttering of toast in last years ‘Phantom Thread’ (thanks to Brandon Jones’ sound design). Combine that with the no-nonsense austere direction from Krasinski and powerful performances — and you get a memorable modern horror film, one made easy to recommend and assure you to believe the noise.