Silence can truly be deafening. Even in a packed theater, it’s daunting how a small sound becomes amplified in the absence of others. Sound is the enemy in John Krasinski’s newest film, ‘A Quiet Place’. Yes, Jim Halpert from The Office has grown some exceptional directorial skills and has given us an ingenious thriller about a family surviving in a post apocalyptic reality where monsters hunt you down by sound. Supremely inventive with its world building and familial ties, ‘A Quiet Place’ is cutting edge intensity and it deserves your praise (and money).
A family of five are forced to live their lives in utter silence in order to survive. Creatures with super agility and hearing hunt by sound, and it poses detrimental risks to the family’s fully aware lifestyle. The film has an interesting creature concept that, from the get-go, is well established to the audience. It leaves a few curiosities unanswered, but it introduces enough of these monsters to pique interest. Rather than stretching the imagination of what they look like (like how many modern horrors work), it’s decided that the tension build is given more respectively to the film’s fight for survival and the things they become aware of themselves. What a relief it is to have a film that doesn’t waste time with exposition. We aren’t given any backstory to the family, but it’s refreshing because it still works. Immediately, we are thrown into Day 89 of this tragic stricken reality, and it’s shown just how high the stakes are. The tension begins and lasts throughout the runtime, giving us a visceral, dreaded satisfaction.
Krasinski, who has a writing credit on the film, implements a great deal of dread in the form of its story structure and how exactly the family dynamic plays out. Their natural way of living has been compromised and they have nothing left but survival. You could say this has become their natural way of living, as they’ve perfected alternatives down to using lettuce leaves as plates and felt pieces for Monopoly. In this sentiment, the production value pays off. It drags us into the tension by letting us in on things unknown to the characters; plot devices that further put us over the edge of our seats. The sound design lends itself impeccably in the way it can make the shatter of a lantern one of the first outbursts of quick desperation in the film. Marco Beltrami’s score complements the way tension transcends and finds a home in the film. Daring, intimidating, and nuanced, it’s easily become a favorite to hopefully seek an Oscar nomination. We’re treading lightly in this world with the family and Krasinski’s direction is well enough to see all of these aspects through to the audience.
Krasinski and Blunt’s chemistry as they take on the roles of industrious, resilient parents is so gratifying and real. Krasinski, a full-bearded, sweater wearing dad here, is meticulously cautious. He’s not over the top great, but he gives enough of himself to sustain a very deep likability. He’s keen to prepare their farmhouse bunker into a sound-proof environment they can live in. Blunt also full heartedly lays it all out on the line and truly is the star here. Her character’s maternal instinct to protect and defend is something that lends a relatability to the film. One major element, as shown in the trailers, is that she’s pregnant. This is used cleverly later on, but it’s just so hard to believe that, in a world where you could literally die if a sound you make is remotely loud enough, you’d be careless enough to become pregnant here. Possibly a cop out to ensure sentimental impact, or maybe just a way for them to find new hope in a desolate existence, it’s still quite reckless to believe. That said, it really doesn’t take away from the film overall.
Blunt and Krasinski embrace their roles with a very realized fear: “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” And it’s at that level when we realize that the “horror” you will find in the film isn’t so much the idea of these monsters, but of feeling powerless to aid and protect your children from these evils. Arguably, it’s as much a deep dive into the insecurities of parenthood as it is a monster thriller, and these themes are carefully merged into a successfully immersive final cut.
Coming off the indie success of ‘Wonderstruck’ last year, Millicent Simmonds is casted here, by the enormous perseverance of Krasinski to get her in, and gives a wonderful performance that truly needs no words to convey. Every pained remark told by the eyes and every intense build is told through her facial features and hand motions. Her signing comes to life in ways that leans us into emotional weight with her inner guilt. Simmonds’ casting choice is highly representative of both the hearing impaired and disabled community, where it’s apparent not enough is done to cast these actors. It’s so satisfying and even more telling to how it touches others in the community. So, thank you, John Krasinski. Moreover, Noah Jupe plays his role stupendously as the young brother afraid of the shift in responsibilities and what’s to come, but manages to step up to the plate quite convincingly to do what he needs to do.
‘A Quiet Place’ is high octane survival in an everlasting slice of tension. The film is so well paced and finds success in these moments of a fear so loud it falls silent. John Krasinski pulls out all his tricks to quietly convey the kind of suspense that will lead among other successes this year. Thrilling and nail-bitingly good, you’ll find yourself forgetting to exhale.
Directed by: John Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe