Silence can be as terrifying as screams, and no movie exemplifies that principle as much A Quiet Place. A film that is almost entirely quiet and relies mainly on sign language to make even the tiniest bit of noise absolutely heart-stopping.
The film follows the Abbott family trying to survive after the planet has been invaded by monsters that kill anything they hear. At first, we see the family gathering supplies in the early days of the invasion, only to have the youngest child play with a toy that makes sounds and gets killed by one of the creatures.
Cut to over a year later when Evelyn, the mother (Emily Blunt), is pregnant once more and the family continues to live on their farm. Deaf daughter Reagan (Millicent Simmonds) is frustrated and guilty over her youngest brother’s death, son Marcus (Noah Jupe) is petrified of the world outside, and Lee (John Krasinski) is just trying to keep everything together. However, things soon start devolving as one, small noise brings the monsters to their door as Evelyn goes into labor and all hell breaks loose.
The first thing you’ll notice about A Quiet Place while watching it is just how beautifully shot it is. The gorgeous scenery of the forest and farm, the soft lighting over the house as characters carefully all through, or just the way shots are framed. Even though Krasinski has never directed a thriller/horror film before, he clearly shows a penchant for suspense. As characters move through the world, you can feel how much danger they’re in and that makes watching it a literal edge-of-your-seat ride. Every scene is carefully shot but also has masterful sound design, whether we’re hearing through the daughter’s deafness or tuned in to even the tiny creaks that could bring the monsters running in.
A Quiet Place is not quite perfect. At first, I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly it was. Then, watching the credits roll by, I realized what it was. All the characters have names but they’re never used by anyone in the film. You never learn anything about who this family was before, or the world they live in. You never get that glimpse of the world before and so the film lives without a frame of reference. Now, there are movies that do this successfully, but usually they make some reference to the way used to be, but if anything, this movie avoids doing that all together. As such, it just feels like a really well made student film that could then be expanded on.
Still, what it lacks in context, it makes up for in stellar character development and performance. John Krasinski’s terse but caring father is endearing, especially when he interacts as Millicent Simmonds’s rebellious teenage daughter. Simmonds doesn’t quite give a Emily Blunt, however, carries the lion share of the suspense acting in an extended sequence of going into labor and trying to hide from the monsters that come rampaging through. Her compassion and loving nature really shines through in her interactions with her kids. The weakest performance comes Noah Jupe as the eldest son, but only because he doesn’t get much to work with other than being constantly afraid.
Even the little things are chosen meticulously. The monster design itself is really intimidating, with their speed and the way their head expands to listen in to various sounds. But the stroke of brilliance is keeping them mainly as an unseen threat that could be lurking at any point keeps the audience on their toes. Even the little moments, like when a nail gets lifted off the floor turns into a hair-pulling nightmare as we are made to feel more and more unsafe. Every choice adds to the suspense and, frankly, it elevates what would have been a passable but unremarkable thriller to a contender for the title of genre-defining classic.
A Quiet Place screams from the rooftops
A tight, exhilarating 90 minutes of tension, suspense, and a family held together by love in the face of death. The acting is stellar, the plot is solidly built, and the cinematography immerses you in a terrifying world.