Movie review: A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place – written, starring and directed by John Krasinski – is first and foremost about family. Parenting in particular; the sacrifices you make for your kids and how difficult it can be to raise them, care for them and keep them safe in a harsh and hostile world. It’s also about terrifying eff off monsters that will rip your face off if you make a noise above a whisper. Both are successful.
In 2020, a year and change after these creatures, who hunt using sound as that old apocalypse staple – the flapping newspaper – tells us, appear to have wiped out a vast section of the population we are introduced to a family, the Abbotts, (Krasinski, his wife Emily Blunt and their 2 kids, Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds) as they eke out an existence in almost complete silence, using sign language to communicate. Still grieving after a previous encounter with the creatures and with another child on the way, the Abbotts attempt to live a normal a life as possible while their home is surrounded by an unknown amount of creatures.
It’s a simple but effective premise, and every aspect of the script (by Krasinski, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck) works in concert with the other. The monsters can’t see but hunt with stunning accuracy if you make the tiniest sound. Their daughter, Megan, is deaf so having already known ASL the family were at an advantage over others. And as such the family have taken precautions against making noise with world building that thankfully doesn’t treat the audience like idiots and filled with subtle details – painting the safe to stand on floorboards, covering paths with sand, a system of different coloured lights that serve as a warning system. All this is communicated effectively and efficiently by director Krasinski who wrings tension out of the most mundane settings.
It helps though that the premise is so solid. Removing what we take for granted in most movies – y’know, dialogue – ramps up the tension anyway, meaning that any sound made becomes an inadvertent jump scare but Krasinski shows admirable restraint by not resorting to a cat jumping out of a cupboard. Most of the time anyway. He keeps his monsters hidden for the most part; obscured by trees, a leg here, squashing a poor racoon there. Spielberg seems an obvious inspiration, and the Jaws approach of not showing your monster fully works wonders, though even in a full body shot they remain terrifying creations.
The BBFC described it as ‘sustained threat’ and there’s no better way to put it. Every frame of the film is dripping with dread. A bravura sequence around the halfway mark involving a nail and a bath will have you holding your breath for what feels like twenty minutes. People were shushing the screen. There are a few moments of respite throughout; a slow dance early on is particularly moving and a scene behind a waterfall where you actually hear characters exchange dialogue at normal volume is a welcome relief after nearly FORTY MINUTES of ‘sustained threat.’
Real life husband and wife Blunt and Krasinski carry the bulk of the film but it’s the child actors that impress the most, handling most of the emotional heft with aplomb, especially young deaf actress Millicent Simmonds. The ending is perhaps a little too neat and feels a little similar to other invasion films but it doesn’t matter because you’ll be on the edge of your seat too much to notice.