A Quiet Place (2018)
Movie premises can run the gamut from the clever, “don’t let the bus fall below 50 mph or a bomb will explode,” to the wacky, “don’t feed the cuddly Gremlins after midnight or they turn into vicious little murder beasts,” to the downright “ok, who the hell greenlit this mess,” snakes on a plane anyone? But no matter how original the idea, the movie it carries lives or dies by its execution and it is here that A Quiet Place shows its pedigree. As set-ups go, it comes with an intriguing one: don’t make any noise louder than a whisper or risk instant, violent death by mysterious monsters that hunt by sound.
The premise is illustrated to chilling effect in an opening scene where an act of kindness has devastating results for the wondering family of protagonists. The narrative device presents a particular difficulty for the filmmakers. Namely, how do you tell a story with almost no dialogue between characters? An original idea is a Hollywood rarity in itself and the film handles the contrivance with expertise, showing us the daily routine of a normal, loving, American family in a world where dropping a glass can mean swift, brutal death. There has been a recent trend of rookie directors coming out of left field with impressive, refreshing work, (Who the heck expected Jordan Peal to come up with a horror masterpiece like Get Out?) and to that illustrious list we can add . . . John Krasinski. Wait. Who?
With just a fairly unknown movie and about 3 episodes of The Office to his credit, it is a testament to his skill that on barely his second feature film he directed something as arresting as this. In a stale genre where most scares are dependent on jump cuts and a shrill string instrument note, Krasinski and his crew have crafted a truly terrifying film that demands attention and keeps building on its premise with brutal intensity.
The director and his DP, The Girl On A Train’s Charlotte Bruus Christensen, frame their cameras to maximize the despair and isolation of the family’s situation and the effect is unnerving. For this is an engrossing and captivating film that will keep your eyeballs glued to the screen from barely 5 minutes into it; the family’s plight to survive against mythical, seemingly indestructible creatures making for a genuine hair-raising, spine-tingling, armrest gripping, movie experience. And all this with barely two pages of dialogue between the whole cast.
But the filmmakers are not alone in their endeavors. They are assisted greatly by a game cast who are all committed to their roles, even the young ‘uns. John Krasinski is pulling double duty as director and paterfamilias in the cast, constantly trying to figure out how to protect his family from an unbeatable menace. Emily Blunt can do emotional intensity in her sleep and is particularly well cast here but it is newcomer Millicent Simmonds, as daughter Regan, that threatens to steal the show. Deaf in real life since infancy she brings a realism to the role that is difficult to imagine anybody else could have pulled.
If there is something to gripe about is that the evil that terrorizes the family can seem generic and not much is offered in the way of explanation as to their origin but this is nitpicking and in no way detracts from the experience. The movie is a master class in suspense, a taut thriller that tightens the tension to an almost unbearable degree all the way to its final scene. Hold off on the sodas, folks. You’re not gonna want to take any bathrooms breaks for this one.