Movie Review: A Quiet Place

Millicent Simmonds in A QUIET PLACE, from Paramount Pictures.

A Quiet Place is perfect.

There you go. End of review. Stop reading and go see it!

What? You want more?

Okay, if I have to convince you, read on.

The movie begins ominously with a title card reading “Day 89” and we’re thrust into a very quiet scene of a family foraging for supplies. One of the first things you’ll notice is that they’re all barefoot, and they’re being VERY VERY quiet.

We soon learn that aliens have killed almost everyone, and they hunt by sound.

In fact, the tagline for the movie is:

If they hear you, they hunt you.

These fast-moving creatures come quick. And there’s pretty much nothing you can do to defend yourself.

In the history of movie monsters, these creatures are right up there with the aliens from the Alien movies, if not scarier. At least with those, you had a slight fighting chance (especially if you were in a mech suit!)

The movie is directed by John Krasinski (yes, Jim from The Office) who also stars in it with his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, as parents trying to raise a family in a world where the slightest sound marks you for death.

This is a quieter post-apocalyptic movie, in both tone and narrative.

Sound, and a lack of it, plays an important role in the entire movie, from building tension to creating “sonic envelopes” for each character. Depending who is the focal point on-screen, the sound is a bit different. You’re hearing the environment as the characters are. This is most noticeable with the family’s deaf daughter, Regan, who is played phenomenally by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds. With her, you mostly hear either nothing, or next to nothing.

Silence a constant in this world.

Left to right: Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds in A QUIET PLACE, from Paramount Pictures.

In fact, there’s very little dialogue in the movie.

The family communicates through American Sign Language (with closed captions). These long stretches of silence  make the moments with sound explode onto the screen or ramp up the tension slowly in a way usually reserved for music.

And it works.

Sitting in a crowded theater, I loved feeling the swelling fear of my wife clawing at my arm as the screws tightened on the screen. Despite this being the first horror movie directed by Krasinski, I felt like I was in the hands of an accomplished master of the form (much as I did in last year’s Get Out directed by Jordan Peele.)

While there is music in this movie, a great soundtrack by Marco Beltrami, it is the quiet, along with the natural sounds that drive most of the tension.

At a lean 90-minute running time, A Quiet Place is perfectly paced with no filler. Every scene serves to build the characters and their tenuous relationships or threaten them. In a lot of ways, this is a personal and family horror movie in the way that Signs was.

You’re with one family.

Left to right: John Krasinski and Noah Jupe in A QUIET PLACE, from Paramount Pictures.

We don’t see anything beyond their limited viewpoints. Nor do we know what’s really going on outside of newspaper clippings as the world was ending. World building isn’t done through exposition or clunky dialogue, but rather the environment and watching and learning.

And telling this very personal story of one family is what elevates it over similar movies, and makes it all the more frightening. This story is most parents’ primal fears made real — being unable to protect their children, but trying like hell anyway. Trying to make sure their children can survive when they’re gone.

It’s a harsh lesson wrapped in love, and A Quiet Place serves it up perfectly.

Through its stellar character development, rising tension, and environment, A Quiet Place achieves more, and says more, than its louder, bloodier, attention-starved wannabe could ever dream of saying.

 

WHAT I LOVED

  • The use of sound to create place, and build dread.
  • How Millicent Simmonds was able to convey so much without dialogue, through expression alone. She is the heart of this story.
  • The monsters were creepy as hell. While very reminiscent of other movie and TV monsters, they were no less terrifying.
  • The entire cast’s acting was perfect.
  • The 90-minute running time was perfect.
  • Though I loved Signs, the ending felt cheap. This ending feels well-earned.
  • The musical score faded when it needed to fade and ramped up when it needed to ramp up. A good score.
  • It’s a movie you can see with your teenage kids, and you’ll all appreciate it for different reasons. If you’re a dad with a teenage daughter, you might especially love this movie, as a lot of the most powerful scenes are between Regan and her father.

THINGS I DIDN’T LOVE

  • The only negative would be the people munching popcorn loudly through the quiet scenes. But it’s still fun to see this in a theater if you’re like me, and you enjoy feeling people’s responses as the tension mounts. Also, for the most part, the people were quiet, which means the movie was doing its job and captivating them.

SCORE

10/10 — Perfect! I can’t think of a single flaw in the movie. Enjoyed every moment of it.

 

7 comments

  1. Rhiannon

    I have to agree with you Dave! I went to see this on Sunday and I have to say, I was very surprised that John Kaminski also wrote it, as well as starred. I left the theater feeling fulfilled from the story, not a “wtf was that” feeling like I get from most horror movies these days. I was cringing at the laundry/bathtub scene with Emily Blunt! So well done. And the children were like mini seasoned pros. I swear, kids today have amazing acting chops (Stranger Things, IT cast, etc.). Glad to hear your take on this one.

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