Well, if ‘Jim’ from The Office wants to pursue a career behind the camera…he’s off to a good start with this one. John Krasinski steps up to plate for his first run as a feature film director and, in my opinion, knocks it out of the park with this $17 million post-apocalyptic thriller. I’d heard some small rumblings earlier about him taking on this project and even though I think Krasinski is a well-rounded actor (with solid leanings toward comedy) who happens to have a certain charisma to him, I didn’t know what to expect and really had no preconceived notions. We’ve seen it before where actors gain enough clout to wrangle themselves a directing gig, which sometimes works out nicely, like Bill Paxton’s 2001 ‘Frailty’ or Ben Affleck’s 2007 entry ‘Gone Baby Gone’…and sometimes it’s a disaster, like Ryan Gosling’s allegedly bizarre and disjointed flick from 2014, ‘Lost River’. Luckily, THIS is a solid genre flick, that I will gladly watch again.
‘A Quiet Place’ opens on Day 89, after some unknown event has shut down society. We meet the Abbott family, led by Krasinski’s ‘Lee’ and his wife ‘Evelyn’ (real-life spouse Emily Blunt), along with their 3 kids, the oldest being a plucky deaf girl named ‘Regan’. As the family heads back to their isolated farm, an innocent mistake on the part of one of the children results in a horrifying tragedy…and our first glimpse of what they’re facing. We then catch up with the Abbots on Day 400 and something, as they go about their quiet, cautious routine. Whatever the event was that brought down civilization, it viciously set strange and deadly creatures on the human population. We learn that the beasts are sightless, and hone in on sound to hunt their prey, therefore everyone is disciplined in noise control, to the point where no one wears shoes and only communicate in whispers and signing. A series of unlucky events puts the families farm in the creatures cross-hairs, and the fight for survival is on!
As I mentioned earlier, I was impressed by this film. While I love me some big and complex spectacle on the Big Screen, I’m equally OK with smaller, more intimate fare…which is, happily, what I got from ‘A Quiet Place’.
Speaking of ‘intimate’, this is a good place to mention the cast of this movie. Krasinski and Blunt were well-served by their real-life martial status, as they definitely conveyed ‘chemistry’ and ‘caring’ in their hushed interactions, not to mention the underlying current of ‘equality’, in their individual standings in the family dynamic. I especially loved a scene in which they sneak in a tender dance in the basement of their house, sharing ear buds in the dark. The supporting cast of kids were also really well handled, especially the character of ‘Regan’. As a young deaf teenager, she came off as believable, determined and resourceful. It was interesting to note that actress Millicent Simmonds is actually deaf in real-life, which I would attribute to her apparent comfort with the character and mannerisms. With no spoken words, I found her to be impressively effective. The younger boys were good too, each coming across as a little ‘person’, not just a child-shaped place-holder in the script.
On a technical level, a lot of work was put into the Sound Design, which one would expect, for a film that makes noise such an integral part of the plot. Many sequences only use the small, incidental sounds in the peripherals of a scene to ‘paint the picture’, like wind in leaves or footsteps on wood. I found myself noting little noises around me as I was walking through the theatre’s underground parking to my car, and I love it when a film makes me do that. So that’s a point in this flick’s favor.
As mentioned, the story is very simple, which allowed Krasinski to use a ‘slow-burn’ approach to the pacing of the narrative, and he used it well. There’s a couple terrific scenes of tension and suspense that are timed-out beautifully, and for maximum effect. This flick, which is definitely a sci-fi / horror, used it’s PG-13 rating to good effect. It’s the tension that get’s ya, not the gore. Most of the lightning-fast violence is of the ‘left to your imagination’ variety, though there is a death early in the movie that did get to me, even though we saw very little of the bloody carnage. It was about the build-up to the kill…and who it was that got killed. Most of the action takes place on the Abbott farm, which helped keep the geography clear when the shit hit the fanc.
For a modestly budgeted movie, the effects and production design are really well handled. The design and execution of the sharp and toothy creatures (aliens? demons?…?) was creepy and I loved the snarly, echo-location noises they used, when they turned up in the area. We’ve seen creatures like this before in flicks like ‘The Cave’ (2005) or ‘Resident Evil’ (2002), but they made these ones work well in the confines of the story they were in. I still haven’t decided if I liked the ambiguity of where they came from or what they were….though I am finding myself leaning toward liking it.
And that’s a good lead-in to any Negatives. Honestly, I can’t pick out much. Not necessarily for me, but I could see some of the unanswered questions the movie poses pissing some impatient and unimaginative folks off. Some peeps would NEED to know about the other survivors we know are out there. Or would NEED to know, what caused the monster’s arrival. Or…what hell are they even are?! Even some littel questions, like “What’s still providing electricity?” Et cetera, et cetera. But for me…I was OK coming up with my own answers, if I even felt the need.
All in all, ‘A Quiet Place’ is a solid, tightly constructed sci-fi / horror thriller, that’s big on riveting suspense and tension, all happening around a family of people who we want to see survive the whole 1 hour and 30 minute run-time. The simple story and high-concept premise are very user friendly and Krasinski coaxes some very nice performances out of everyone, while also showing a visual flair in his framing and editing. He should be happy with this first title on his Directing Resume’ and I’m interested in seeing what he does next. If you want a tense but simple story where likable people need to fight for survival against a strange and deadly foe, in the ruins of What Once Was…then this is a movie for You!!