The unstoppable monster, the eerie shots of abandoned towns and shops, newspaper clippings screaming about the fall of humanity- at first glance there is a lot in A Quiet Place that we have seen before. Alien, Cloverfield, I Am Legend. What provides this film with a unique angle is that the monsters (while blind) have incredibly acute hearing- you make a sound that’s too loud and they’ll be on you in a matter of seconds.
A Quiet Place follows the life of the Abbott family as they live in a post fall-of-humanity world. Emily Blunt and John Krasinski* star as the parents of three children played by Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward. The standard of their acting making it ridiculous for them to be labelled child actors. It also feels strange to refer to Blunt and Krasinski starring in A Quiet Place because of their understated performances, understated and truthful. The Abbott family have one advantage in their survival; they were already comfortable conversing in sign language because of their daughter Regan (Simmonds). In a lesser film this would run the risk of coming across like a gimmick. It is anything but gimmicky, it is integral to the nature of their family, the relationships between the parents, the parents and their children, the siblings. It is part of their life, but there is also no doubt that this has enabled them to survive when many others haven’t.
This is a film that, while not afraid of taking its time and using silence (a lot of silence), grips you and refuses to let you go. Tension ratchets up throughout the film with very little relief- any moments of calm I felt were a sneeze away from descending into hellish panic- but it’s not just the tension, you’re gripped by the family and their daily life/struggles.
I have never sat in a cinema feeling so tense for so long as I did last night. Every sound carried weight and meaning- was that gentle floorboard creak too noisy? Are they breathing too loudly? The tension and atmosphere on screen is infectious, I shifted my arm slightly and I was very aware of all the noises in this innocuous movement.
The performances were beautiful from the subtle moments between Emily Blunt and John Krasinski to the forceful argument between daughter and father. Beautiful is a word I would use to describe a great deal of A Quiet Place. It’s looks wonderful and has that rough and tangible feel that you get from older horrors. It was interesting contrasting the look of Blumhouse’s upcoming Truth or Dare one of the pre-show trailers to A Quiet Place. Truth or Dare looks slick and polished, but (and I’m basing this on a trailer so I could be horrendously wrong) it doesn’t look like a film that you’ll feel in the way I felt A Quiet Place.
Krasinski has done a brilliant job of getting you to go through every moment with the Abbott family. It was amazing to see (and feel) so many people jump in their seats, physically flinch as one specific (but I’m not going describe) moment. We were with the family, we were part of the family. This could easily sound pretentious or overstating things, but there was something really interesting in the audience reactions to some of the tensest moments in A Quiet Place. Due to the nature of the peril the characters live in- make a sound, you’re in danger- when they wanted to scream they had to do so in silence. Practically this meant a lot of the time characters putting hands over their mouths in horror, holding the sound back. What I found so interesting is that I started to do this…and the rest of my row did as well.
My only reservation I have with A Quiet Place lies in the final scene (and a little in what I like to think of as The Grain Scene) where it felt more like a film than something really playing out, but I have to stress that this is a very minor reservation. I loved A Quiet Place and I found myself grinning as it bared its B-movie fangs in the final scene (even while I felt that slight reservation).
It really is a wonderful film which is amazing to see at the cinema, but I think will reward home viewing away from the ambient sounds of popcorn, a takeaway meal of unknown restaurant and people entering late while lighting their way with their phones which were slight distractions. You need to feel the silence in A Quiet Place and I suppose it’s the mark of how good a film it is that these distractions were minor and actually the audience were mostly silenced as it played out. Gripping from the first scene and refuses to pull punches (without resorting to gore) I cannot stress how much I think you should see this film.
Beautiful, visceral, infectious, tense.
*John Krasinski is not only the bearded face on screen, he also has done a brilliant job directing A Quiet Place, something that I hope gets a lot of attention but I suspect will go largely unnoticed. I'm very excited to see what he directs next...and acts in...some people are annoyingly talented.