Perfection is not something easily obtained, unless you’re Natalie Portman during her Swan Lake closing act in Aronofsky’s 2010 ballet mindfuck, Black Swan. The tragic telling of Portman’s, Nina, and her destructive obsession to be a dance paragon made it into my top ten films of the decade. But there was another tragic tale that made a ‘quietly louder’ noise at the box office, that went on to achieve cinematic perfection.
The breaking news that Jim Halpert – the neutral good prankster of The Office (USA) – would be co-writing, directing and starring in a dead serious, post-apocalyptic horror, would surely be filed alongside his Mister Fantastic rumours. But as pre-production began without a whisper of satire, our excitement flickered at the prospect of what John Krasinski could create. If that wasn’t enough to set our curiosity fires ablaze, Emily Blunt then joined the cast in lead with Krasinski to align stars and harness their power couple qualities within this big-budget horror that carried itself as an indie. By the time the first teasers arrived, we were not only expecting a daring debut – as the hype around Krasinski’s titular, ‘quiet’ method grew – but a cinematic experience that boasted the film’s genius through its defining technicality.
A Quiet Place gave credence to the ‘not every film has to be original’ defence. Writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck had quiet brain back in their college days, grasping inspiration from silent cinema, classic Hitchcock and Alien throughout the years of Quiet’s development. Fast-forward to 2016 – after being scooped by Platinum Dunes – where they’re joined by a keen Krasinski to saddle the apocalyptic stallion – amidst the sub-genres stronghold in the market – and plant another loss-worn family right in the heart of it.
The Abbott (non-disclosed in the movie) quartet – scavenging to survive on present-day Earth – moved trepidatiously on an alien’s hunting ground, deeming no place safe. When you’re prey to Demogorgon-esque beasts with exceptional hearing abilities, silence is paramount; a requisite that bore its consequences during the opening sequence. The creature design and plot arcs are familiar, but it’s ability to be intimate and follow a simple recipe with near-flawless execution – with the added novelty of the slightly too repetitive “shhh” game – sets it apart from alien invasion blockbusters.
The emotional thread of the script – tailored by Krasinski – highlighted the mechanics of the family dynamic and how they coped amidst constant and certain danger. It poignantly expressed how their bond and perception of one another became warped and corrupted by grief and regret despite advancing as a solid unit. Their emotional communication ceased after overwhelming loss – despite being previously fluent in sign language due to the daughters hearing impairment – stifling their ability to share the depths of their pain and insecurities. A key theme to Quiet’s success.
Krasinski – who immediately wanted his wife, Emily Blunt, to embark on this journey with him – enhanced the gentle romance and airtight bond between husband and wife, Lee and Evelyn (again, undisclosed), by hiring Blunt. Their chemistry is as radiant on-screen as it is off and both evoke a warm nurturing towards children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe), that add lovely shades of light during moments of their individual, reflective suffering. Each Abbott carries a severe weight on their conscience, whether it’s hatred towards the injustice of their situation or doubt about a father’s love, all amounting to the unbelievable pressure and tension that tightens into an explosive, cathartic release.
With respect to a slew of thrilling and expertly paced productions gone before, I don’t remember experiencing a feature this neat. There are beautiful sequences of exposition that are injected so fluently that you don’t even realise what you were being spoon-fed a few scenes before. The waterfall scene is a wonderful point of relief, where you’re allowed to exhale. However, it also teaches you about ambient noise levels that cleverly prepares you for the climactic firework scene; a moment in my own, personal cinematic history, where my heart responded loudly.
The ‘be quiet’ finger gesture may be the only repetitive strain present, but the give and take of both ambient and score output work harmoniously together, to the extent of Krasinski creating one hell of an emotion-coaster. Dialogue can often drag a feature six feet under or colour every interaction. A Quiet Place removes this obstacle whilst also pulling out the safety net, choosing to pay close attention to body language and alternative expression to signpost every wave of emotion without the pressure of trying to word it appropriately; a task so often pushed aside for fear of not communicating thoughts or emotions accurately.
“A Quiet Family” is a melancholic, introductory melody to the Abbotts – composed by Marco Beltrami – and a title that encompasses their strengths and flaws. Had A Quiet Place been handled by different hands, we may have been looking at another The War of the Worlds, or a strand of Stranger Things. We could have missed out on the delicacy and technical thought applied by Krasinski to deliver those bursts of adrenaline that put every cheap jump scare to shame. Your heart is entirely in the hands of the maker, and it is a near-perfect piece of cinema that supplied the exhilaration and sound design of a 4DX experience, without any distracting gimmicks.