For a moment, try to flashback thirteen years into the past, when an American remake of a
popular British television program debuted on NBC-that show, of course, happened to be a
midseason replacement called The Office, and among the highly talented cast members a young actor by the name of John Krasinski was about to make a name for himself as the wisecracking, sarcastic, camera mugging de facto heartthrob everyone seemed to love and identify with. It truly marked the beginning of a long & fruitful career, one that eventually saw Krasinski branch out into film, where scant successes (Shrek the Third, Away We Go, Monsters University) and plenty of failures (License to Wed, Leatherheads, Something Borrowed, Aloha) began to dot his resume over time akin to the spotty quality of latter Office seasons-let’s face it, they weren’t very good.
It was, however, still apparent that Krasinski seemed to be working his way towards
something special, whether that meant a large scale Hollywood production, a critically
acclaimed indie or something somewhere in between. With A Quiet Place, a film he not only
stars in along with spouse Emily Blunt but also directed and co-wrote, it’s clear that his
moment has at long last arrived, with a sparse, intimate, suspenseful story that packs a
mean punch at a lean ninety minutes.
The story is simple-humanity has fallen victim to a global attack by blind, violent creatures who hunt by detecting the slightest noise, an event which has subsequently reduced Earth’s population drastically and left behind a scattered few survivors who go about their days in near-total silence so as to avoid attracting the attention of the monsters who rule our planet. Krasinski and Blunt play husband & wife, as well as parents to three children, who struggle to keep their family together in the wake of devastation, loss and an unknown future ahead.
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It’s best to enter into A Quiet Place with as little information as possible, a process which is shared by the film-no backstory is given on the beasts, the unnamed family (who happen to be some of A Quiet Place‘s only cast members) or anything else onscreen, seemingly existing as a slice of life look at people inserted into a rural post-apocalyptic world not at all unlike The Road or any episode of The Walking Dead. The few setpieces-a farmhouse, small town, cornfields, the woods-give A Quiet Place the quintessential small scale feel of any classic indie, while the premise itself is straight out of any early Shyamalan entry. Seeing the occasional newspaper clipping detailing the horrifying situation as it unfolded leading up to the events in A Quiet Place becomes bone chilling with each glimpse we see, while details like the clever light-based method used to warn family members of approaching monsters and several soundproof hideouts employed at various points give the film a unique Macgyver-esque sensation of people improvising just to stay alive. Overall, it exudes the same tension brought about by Jurassic Park or the Tim Robbins segment in 2005’s War of the Worlds remake, still one of that film’s best moments.
Living up to the title, the silence is used to maximum effect throughout, thus securing its
place as King Of The Jump Scares and a movie best seen in a subdued theater where every
noise becomes amplified to the Nth Degree. Marco Beltrami’s eerie score further sets the
tone, and the necessary use of American Sign Language throughout mixed with such moments as the unsettling sound made by the creatures when in close proximity to any of the human characters make the few times when we hear those same characters speak all the more meaningful.
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Speaking of, the core cast completely make the most with what they’ve got-Krasinski and
Blunt deliver gritty performances as they attempt to reconcile their dire predicament with
their roles as parents, while Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward as their children additionally do a fine job. As their hearing-impaired daughter, Simmonds in particular deserves a fair amount of praise, being deaf offscreen as well, and although Jupe holds up his end of the bargain as the perpetually worried son forced into early adulthood, his greatest attribute seems to be widening his eyes and looking scared, though this is but a small complaint. Again, the less known about the cast going in, the better. Plus, those final minutes…wow.
Make no mistake-this is a dark film, one I may rarely revisit, and it still isn’t perfect. It’s not a terribly original story-at the end of the day, it’s simply another monster movie not at all dissimilar from Jaws-and the small budget manifests itself in such areas as sloppy editing and average cinematography that most likely will remain unnoticed when the Oscar committee comes sniffing around for potential nominees. It’s also probably a movie that will find fans in those who enjoy watching people raise a finger to their lips in the shushing manner, as this happens a bit too many times, killing their intended ominous purpose by the time the credits roll. Even the rules regarding the safe decibel levels one should adhere to in order to avoid their demise tend to fluctuate from scene to scene. Nonetheless, Krasinski still manages to craft a good thriller, demonstrating a clear ability to work well with fine actors and a competency behind the camera to suggest that, from here, the road looks bright for the man. It’s hard to stay quiet about how impressed I was with A Quiet Place, but lest I disturb the haters, I’ll try my best.