A Quiet Place lives up to the ambitious challenge that it sets for itself, taking audiences on a compelling and suspenseful journey along the way.
The third feature-length film directed by John Krasinski (aka. Jim from The Office), A Quiet Place is an excellent example of how to take a simple premise - monsters that hunt using sound - and flesh it out into a lean, mean creature feature with solid human drama at its core. A Quiet Place may seem a far cry from Krasinski's previous work as a writer/director, but it shares the same concerns for the working class as 2012's Promised Land (which Krasinski cowrote and costarred in) and builds on the concerns about parenthood from 2016's The Hollars (a film Krasinski headlined and directed). The movie further establishes Krasinski as a true budding talent behind the camera, after his first two features earned his props for ambition but an otherwise lukewarm reception. A Quiet Place lives up to the ambitious challenge that it sets for itself, taking audiences on a compelling and suspenseful journey along the way.
In the not too distant future, the earth has been overrun by mysterious, but extremely dangerous and powerful creatures that can only track their prey through sound. Among the survivors are the Abbott family and their patriarch Lee (Krasinski), who have taken extreme measures in order to stay alive and avoid being detected by the sound-sensitive monsters. After more than a year of surviving this dystopia, the Abbotts continue on with their lives; Lee's wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is preparing to give birth, their hearing son Marcus (Noah Jupe) is learning the ropes from his father, and their deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is still struggling to come to terms with her role in a tragedy that struck the family, several months earlier.
Unfortunately, even a family as smart and capable as the Abbotts can only stay hidden for so long, and eventually the monsters nearby become aware of their existence. When the family is split up one day and Evelyn goes into early labor, it's not long before the creatures descend upon their home, eager and ready to kill whomever they can find. Thus, it falls to the individual members of the Abbott family to protect themselves and one another, with nothing but their wits and know-how to save them.
It's no secret that Jaws was a heavy influence on A Quiet Place, though in many ways the film hews closer to Steven Spielberg's directorial debut on the suspense thriller Duel, with its minimalist storytelling approach. A Quiet Place further brings to mind Spielberg's War of the Worlds; not only in the way that it taps into the fears of being a parent with children in a troubled political climate and modern world that often feels dystopian, but even down to its set pieces where freaky creatures hunt people hiding in basements and desperately trying to not draw their attention. Krasinski and his cowriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (Nightlight) maintain a greater air of mystery around the film's monsters than War of the Worlds does its own, but that only accentuates A Quiet Place's throughline about the experience of raising kids to survive in a dangerous world that even their parents don't fully understand. That Krasinki and Blunt are married with kids in real life only makes the message (and thus, the film as a whole) feel all the more personal.
A Quiet Place similarly succeeds in providing information and character development though strictly visual means, without making its lack of dialogue come off as a gimmick in the process. The film often finds subtle ways to explain how the Abbotts have managed to survive in this post-apocalyptic world without being heavy-handed in its non-verbal methods; for example, the family having had a deaf daughter before the monsters attacked accounts for them knowing sign language so well. That isn't to say that A Quiet Place is ineffective in its usage of sound either, as the film's sharp audial editing and Marco Beltrami's ominous score certainly help to set the mood throughout its runtime. While some of its jump-scare tactics are less innovative than others, the movie does wring a good deal of tension out of Regan's inability to hear the world around her especially.
Part of what makes A Quiet Place effective in its scary moments is that it takes the time to develop the Abbotts and establish their respective motivations and concerns over the course its first half, before things start to go south in its second. Krasinki became famous on The Office for being able to express a myriad of thoughts and feelings with just a simple look at the camera, and here he puts that skill to great use in a more dramatic context. Blunt is equally strong in the role of Evelyn, whether she's sensitively teaching her children - in order to ensure that they receive a full education - or being a badass while battling giant monsters as she's on the verge of giving birth herself. Jupe and Simmonds are similarly compelling as the children in the family, and Simmonds being deaf in real life lends her performance a greater sense of authenticity for it.
Krasinski and his director of photography Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Far From the Madding Crowd, Molly's Game) further capture the Abbotts' sense of isolation and the feeling of danger lurking around every corner through the film's often catching visuals. From the spacious landscape shots of the family's heavily fortified home and farmland surroundings to the tight camera angles during the movie's suspenseful sequences, A Quiet Place varies smoothly from tender to disturbing in tone thanks its its imagery. Editor Christopher Tellefsen (Assassin's Creed) further trims any fat in the narrative to maintain a steady sense of pacing throughout the movie's short runtime, thus ensuring that the slower moments never drag and that the movie's plot contrivances (naturally, there are some) don't stick out too much along the way.
Tight in its construction and boasting some genuinely nerve-wracking moments, A Quiet Place is an excellent modern monster horror/thriller that wrestles with serious issues and concerns in a meaningful (and moving) way. Doubling as a great showcase for its four leads (Krasinski and Blunt in particular), A Quiet Place reaches a comfortable middle ground between the thrill ride experience that many mainstream horror films offer and the contemplative atmosphere of an arthouse entry in the genre. The film also sees Krasinski take a significant step forward as a filmmaker and suggests that audiences may yet come to expect more great things from him in the future. After the landmark year for horror that was 2017, it's nice to see that 2018 will boast at least one terrific addition to the genre, when all is said and done.
A Quiet Place is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 90 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody images.
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