A QUIET PLACE
Director: John Krasinski
Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, Leon Russom
MPAA Rating: (for terror and some bloody images)
Running Time: 1:30
Release Date: 4/6/18
Review by Mark Dujsik | April 5, 2018
We should start with the monsters of A Quiet Place. Nobody knows from where they came, but they showed up at some point in the year 2020 and began wreaking havoc. We assume that many, many people around the world were killed, while the survivors went into hiding. The back story here is revealed through newspaper clippings, with pictures of soldiers accompanied by headlines stating that the creatures are unstoppable. The final newspaper, still on display within a stand on the streets of an abandoned town, might as well be the final dispatch from humanity. The front page announces a simple statement: "It's sound!"
The monsters are lured to sound. They're blind, as we learn from the scribblings on a whiteboard underneath a barn, where one of the surviving families in the area has made a simple, silent life for themselves. They attack sound and possess some kind of natural armor. There are three of these creatures roaming and preying in the area.
The film's prologue, showing the family on a routine scavenging expedition to the town, shows us what happens when a monster hears a loud noise. There's a 4-year-old boy who has found a toy space shuttle. The father sees it and grabs it, carefully removing the batteries and leaving the potentially noisy thing on the shop counter. The boy's sister gives the now-harmless toy to her brother, but the kid, being a 4-year-old boy, takes the batteries when no one is looking.
While walking the path back to the farm, the noise from the toy erupts, shattering the quiet of the family's sand-softened steps. There's some cracking and growling in the forest, and the father bolts toward his son.
We don't see the monsters for a while, but we get a good enough glimpse of one here. It's all limbs, moving quickly in a blur. The boy is standing there in one moment, and in the next, he has disappeared with the passing mass of monster.
This prologue gives us all the information we need, really, and it does so with a level of commendable restraint. More importantly, the sequence announces an even more basic truth: This film means business. It's not going to allow an innocent, curious kid off the hook for his mistake, just because he's an innocent and curious kid. No one here is safe, and that's the kind of tension that a filmmaker has to earn by doing something drastic—like killing off a kid in the prologue.
The filmmaker is John Krasinski, who also co-wrote the screenplay (with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck) and stars as the patriarch of this scavenging, hiding family. He plays Lee, who watches over his property on monitors and tries to make a better hearing aid for his daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who's deaf. About a year after the horror outside town, Lee's wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is pregnant and due in a few weeks.
There are, naturally, some logistical problems that arise with this fact. It seems irresponsible, not only to bring a baby into this particular world, but also to put the entire family at risk by doing so. Childbirth is rarely, if ever, a quiet process, and even after getting through that, there's the fact that babies are also rarely, if ever, silent. At least Lee and Evelyn are smart enough to anticipate this reality. They've made a crib, which eerily looks more like a casket, and obtained an oxygen tank, as well as a baby-sized mask to connect to the airflow. If one can buy into the conceit that these two, seemingly intelligent people would risk the noise of childbirth and a newborn baby, it's easy enough to appreciate Evelyn's pregnancy as a sort of time bomb—the promise of new life that, with it, threatens almost certain death at the sharp teeth and jagged claws of a nearby monster.
The idea is a continuation of the prologue—a guarantee that things can always get worse. The film gives us just enough information about its characters that we don't want that to happen. Lee and Evelyn are still in mourning. Their surviving younger son Marcus (Noah Jupe) is traumatized by what he saw and remains deathly afraid of leaving the safety of the family farm. Regan feels guilt for giving her younger brother the toy that led to his death and is convinced that her father blames her for what happened.
There isn't much of a plot here, since this is mostly a story about how the family survives and, later, how that survival is threatened by the accidental creation of sound. Once a monster arrives on the farm—drawn in by the combination of a perfectly upright nail and an unfortunately placed foot—the film rarely lets up on its sequences of suspense.
Krasinski is out to play us like a fiddle—allowing us to hear the monster but not see it, keeping Evelyn's face in close-up as she struggles to contain the instinctual need to vocalize her labor pains, putting the terrified and, hence, far-from-silent Marcus into close proximity to the creature. He even follows through on the promise/threat of a crying newborn, and there are some frightening moments in which the soundtrack adopts Regan's subjective experience of not hearing the world.
The film is not so much a scare machine as it is a tension-building mechanism. A Quiet Place finds enough new and sometimes clever ways to keep us on edge that we can forgive the characters' lapses in good judgment, as well as the resolution's uncharacteristic turn toward a loud, generic standoff.
Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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