A Quiet Place
★ ★ ★ ★
Imagine living in complete silence. Never raising your voice over the level of a faint whisper. No music. No heavy footsteps. You can’t even sneeze. Silence. Then imagine your life depends on staying completely noiseless. That’s the situation for the Abbott family—and the rest of the world—in the effective new thriller “A Quiet Place.”
Real life couple John Krasinski (who also wrote, produced and directed) and Emily Blunt are Lee and Evelyn, a mother and father fighting for the survival of their kids Beau (Cade Woodward), Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) in a world where making a sound, any sound, can be deadly. Deadly blind aliens who hunt their prey through sound have invaded the world turning noisy people into human cold cuts. The family lives in silence, using sign language and eating off leaves to avoid the clinking of cutlery on china but what happens when a newborn baby cries? Can life go on?
The silence of the first half of “A Quiet Place” is deafening. There is no spoken dialogue for forty minutes, just dead air. In the way that many filmmakers use bombast to grab your attention Krasinski uses the absence of sound to focus the audience on the situation. Very little information is passed along. We don’t know where the aliens came from, why they’re terrorizing earth or how many there are. Ditto the Abbotts. We know nothing about them. The connection the family feels is transmitted through looks and actions, not words. This isn’t a story where character development is important, it’s a tale of survival pure and simple.
Tension grows in the first, artier half and pays dividends in the second more genre-based half. Set up out of the way Krasinski raises the stakes, putting the family directly in the way of the creatures. Like all good genre movies as the story escalates it becomes not simply about predatory monsters, all teeth and giant ears, but about a universal truth. In this case it is about a parent’s primal need to protect their kids at any cost. Krasinski nails this, providing both the b-movie thrills and chills necessary to the genre and a deep undercurrent of humanity.
He’s aided by the actors. Blunt is all poignancy and strength. Krasinski brings stoicism while the kids make us care about the family.
“A Quiet Place” is a nervy little film. Other filmmakers might have tried to find a way to wedge in more dialogue or spell things out more clearly but the beauty of Krasinski’s approach is its simplicity. Uncluttered and low key, it’s a unique and unsettling horror film.