‘A Quiet Place’ delivers an intense, engrossing experience
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From the first frame, “A Quiet Place” hooks you and draws you into its world.
There’s no introductory montage to set things up, a la “The Fellowship of the Ring”. No voice-over explaining who the characters are or how they got there. No “Flash Gordon”-esque opening crawl to get us up to speed. Nope, the movie just drops us into the action completely unprepared for what’s about to happen.
In a brilliant opening scene, a sequence follows a family on a trip to a drug store, “A Quiet Place” introduces the characters, familiarizes us with the rules of the movie’s world and establishes its primary conflict all in one blow. This is some genius-level narrative economy right here.
And it only gets better from there.
“A Quiet Place” is set in a post-apocalyptic world, ruined by creatures that hide in the woods and kill anything that makes a noise. The Abbotts, led by father Lee (John Krasinski) and mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), survive by making as little noise as possible. They also struggle with the ramifications of losing a son and brother to the creatures in the woods. As far as the story goes, that about covers it.
When the plot of your movie is as streamlined and simple as the plot in “A Quiet Place”, you better have something to make up for it. And this movie has plenty to give. First off, this film has as much atmosphere as any movie since “The Revenant”. The feelings of dread start building with the shot of a fallen traffic light that opens the movie and doesn’t stop building until the movie’s climax. Add in some palpable claustrophobia derived from that Abbott’s underground living spaces, and you wind up with a suspenseful little yarn that twists your nerves and fills you with a sense of impending doom. Don’t go see this movie if you get disturbed easily.
The dread is heightened because the movie gives us well-written characters with understandable motivations. Each member of the Abbott family is wrestling with their own physical, emotional or psychological demons, whether it’s Lee’s inability to connect with his kids or daughter Regan’s resentment toward her father. These are realistic, relatable issues that make the Abbotts feel like real people.
The acting is great, too. Blunt is fantastic as a mother determined to protect her family while being scared out of her wits. I’ve never seen a better performance from Krasinski. Lee is a man who is broken but willing himself to keep going, and you see all of that in Krasinski’s eyes. Even the kids, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, are great. No small feat, since the Abbott kids shoulder a lot of the film’s weight.
And then there’s the use of sound. Since making noise can get you killed in the world of “A Quiet Place”, when a noise is made, you know it’s important. Dialogue is sparse, with the characters communicating with sign language. The sounds of rushing water and rustling corn imbue the movie with a somber tone. Other sounds are amped up to heighten their dramatic impact. The sound is another character in “A Quiet Place”, and it gooses the tension mightily.
Krasinski directed “A Quiet Place” and co-wrote the screenplay with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. It’s an impressive piece of work that shows Krasinski to be a master of foreshadowing, building suspense and creating mood. Let’s hope he’s got more good stuff up his sleeve because there’s clearly more to him than Jim from “The Office”.
As a suspenseful little thriller with a horror twist, “A Quiet Place” is extremely effective. But the film has more depth, more layers, if you care to look for them. It’s possible to view the film as an allegory for parenting. About how you prepare your children for life the best you can, but you can’t always protect them and you have no idea what form threats to your kids will take. This imbues “A Quiet Place” with a surprising amount of emotion. It’s a movie you FEEL as much as you watch.