A Quiet Place
Directed by John Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
Rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody images
1 hr. 30 mins.
A Quiet Place has a unique point of view. The fright in this film is all about its atmosphere and a simple premise: If you talk, or just make an accidental noise, you die.
Of course, this raises some immediate questions. If you can’t make noise, how can you grow corn, and how can you possibly raise children or choose to be pregnant? But as the film implies, there’s no backstory here. These issues are just not relevant to the premise. Either you buy into the story or you don’t.
I chose to just jump in and let ‘er rip. My reward was to enjoy a tight, terrifying film that grabs you from the start and doesn’t let up until the end. Questions aside, A Quiet Place does what it intends to do — scare you.
Starting at what the film identifies as Day 89, the Abbott family — two adults, three children — are scavenging quietly in their small-town grocery store. On their way out, the youngest child, Beau (Cade Woodward), grabs a NASA space shuttle toy. His father immediately removes the batteries and takes it away. “Too noisy,” he tells the boy in sign language.
His sister, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), feels sorry for Beau and, unbeknownst to the family, hands him the toy. Beau, in a final act of defiance, takes the batteries and puts them back in.
As they cross a bridge, Beau turns on the toy, with predictable results. The aliens they fear are blind but, like bats, their hearing is keen and their hunting instincts are deadly.
Welcome to life in the Abbott household, where the family — mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), father Lee (John Krasinski), deaf sister Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and brother Marcus (Noah Jupe) — live quietly using sign language as communication. While their routine is well-established, not all goes as planned. Where noise is involved, the aliens are quick to respond.
Krasinski, who is known mostly for comedy, broadens his range as both a director and a dramatic actor. The story’s construction is tight, with barely a letdown in the tension. Even during normal family moments, a game of Monopoly for instance, the threat of attack is always palpable. A lamp overturns. The danger is immediate.
Along with Krasinski, Emily Blunt gives a stellar performance as Evelyn. Millicent Simmonds (who in real life is deaf) is outstanding as the sister who feels ignored and blamed for her younger brother’s death. Together they create a bond that emanates from the screen.
So what makes A Quiet Place work? It’s not because of the creatures themselves, who look like cousins of Aliens. While they are frightening up close, they’re certainly not unique. And the film is not the first to use a family under attack from deadly aliens, ghosts or other spectral creatures.
The success of this thriller depends on the actors using body language as an art. The face and the eyes tell the story, and the use of silence is probably as effective, if not more so, than screams, blood and guts. The deliberate movement of feet and hands, the necessary discipline to work normally but soundlessly, turns out to be a great plot device. Less, much less, is more in this film.
Yes, there are plot issues and things you must surmise with little help from the story itself. Some of this is carried out in visual ways, such as newspaper clippings and notes on a white board. But mostly, it’s a guessing game.
If you can live with that, A Quiet Place will pull you in and make you duck when someone really does scream. Otherwise, the silence is deafening. It’s one of the few films where you know, if you hear something, it’s purely accidental, and trouble is just an alien away.