Review

A Quiet Place (2018)

Director: John Krasinski

Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

Running time: 95 minutes

4-stars

In a not-too-distant future, the world has been plunged into silence with the inexplicable influx of blind, otherworldly creatures that hunt anyone who makes a sound. On a remote farm, a family – father (Krasinski), mother (Blunt), daughter (Simmonds), son (Jupe) – survive almost exclusively through sign language. But the imminent arrival of a fifth family member soon threatens their very existence.

You won’t be able to tell, but I’m typing this VERY, VERY quietly.

Why? Well, with John Krasinski’s latest directorial venture, never before has sound been so deadly, and silence so terrifying.

With a screenplay penned by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, which Krasinski also helped develop, A Quiet Place is wonderfully, horrifyingly simple in its set-up: you make noise, you die. But by its very basic premise, this is a film that throws up all manner intricate complexity – just how does one live a life completely absent of noise?

Well, as one might expect, the answer proves to be: with great difficulty. But the strength of A Quiet Place is built upon its firm commitment to follow its own rules. A shocking, pulsating opening pulls us firmly into Krasinski’s high-concept dystopia where only silence equals survival. Welcome to a world in which a battery powered toy rocketship can be prove as deadly as a gun; where Monopoly pieces are replaced by cotton balls just as one might blunt the sharp blade of a knife; where a scream, shout, even a faint squirm is suicidal.

But this is not the global, national or even small-town community post-apocalyptic view as might have been the temptation. Instead, much more akin to films like The Road and The Survivalist, A Quiet Place is elevated by its refined character focus upon only a select number – specifically, a nuclear family of four. And in its narrowing, the film is all the more expansive; making narrative space for rich characterisation and patient examinations of loss; parenthood; and strained familial relationships.

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Appearing together in a film for the very first time, real-life husband and wife Krasinski and Blunt play an on-screen couple – the Abbotts – tasked with keeping their young children – Regan and Marcus – safe from the horrors sound can bring: large, hideous monsters mercilessly preying on anything that makes so much as a murmur. Echoes of the Cold War paranoia monster B-flicks of the 1950’s and 60’s permeate through the headlines of windswept newspaper pages and abandoned streets and settlements nodding only in passing to the wider devastation wreaked by such beasts. But this is predominantly a horror film with a masterfully firm clasp of impending, inevitable dread, that refreshingly doesn’t rest its hat solely on cheap jump scares – with the odd one here and there for good measure – that perpetuates an atmosphere of near unbearable tension and discomfort.

Despite the dense, far-reaching woodland that meets their gaze on every side, there’s a striking, ever-increasing claustrophobia that slowly suffocates the isolated farm the family used to call home. S.O.S radio messages go unrequited, and silo-top fires act as the only communication to life beyond their perimeters. Even in this vast landscape, there is a strong sense that the Abbotts are alone in this world – a world where it is only those who strictly abide by the unspoken (literally) laws that live. Pathways are paved with sand and trodden only with bare feet; floorboards and stairs contain painted routes to avoid any creaking or cracking; and dinner is served on leaves and eaten by hand. The family communicate almost entirely by sign, conversing on only the most basic, important aspects of life – an endeavour greatly aided by the fact Regan (a standout performance from Simmonds) is deaf and wears a Cochlear Implant.

For her, this is a silent existence not a far cry from what she has always known. A young girl ridden with guilt on a road to redemption, Regan is the vessel through which A Quiet Place channels its powerful emotional and human beats. She epitomises the pain and suffering felt by a family still reeling in the aftermath of tragedy. And despite not a word of spoken dialogue uttered until we’re easily a third of the way in – and with the aid of an extraordinary Marco Beltrami score – their predicament, their sorrow, their fear, their emotions etched upon weary faces, say far more than any trivial speech could.

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But unlike the gradual distrust and dysfunction of the characters in other end-of-the-world thrillers – the likes of The Mist, It Comes At Night and Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (all of which A Quiet Place takes inspiration from) – this is a familial bond that holds true against a vile foe right until the end, making for a finale that is as heart-breaking as it is heart-stopping.

And as vile goes, the monsters here are some of the vilest we’ve encountered. Somewhere between Cloverfield, the Xenomorph, and the Demogorgon, these are spider-like beasties with arms of claws, heads of razor teeth and inner-ear architecture, and, impressively, expositions with very little fleshing at all. But sound is the true menace in all this – designed at times to be disconcerting and alarming, and at others moving and melancholic. In his role as Producer, this might just be the quietest, most un-Michael Bay film Michael Bay has ever put his name to.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well, if it’s a forest full of blind creatures with some rather expert hearing, and John Krasinski is around to film it, then, yes, it makes a sound – one hell of a sound. An accomplished, nerve-shredding thrill ride, A Quiet Place speaks volumes for John Krasinki’s directorial potential. And with that, not a truer word was ever spoken…

…or not spoken, in this case!

 

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