A Quiet Place opens with a caption, informing us that 89 days have passed. Since what exactly? That’s something we can deduce rather quickly, though not before an almost entirely silent cold opening that introduces us swiftly to a small family of survivors as they venture into a deserted town.
After this, another caption tells us that nearly 400 days more have passed. This is significant because the film skips entirely over the manic early days of whatever catastrophe has struck the world, creating an instant and eerie sense of isolation. There is no opening montage of news reports, nor does anybody tell us what exactly has happened. A precedent was set in the opening minutes, whereby the entire audience in the cinema went ghostly silent and remained so when almost all sound had dissipated from the film itself. Immediately, an atmosphere of dread and, to only a slightly lesser extent, despair, is created.
The cast is, as indicated, minute. Apart from a couple of brief inclusions, we spend the sharp 90-minute picture with a family of four. It stars Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, John Krasinski, and Emily Blunt, who had initially turned down the film due to its dark premise before being reeled right back into it after having read the script by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and her husband Krasinski, who also directed. Simmonds and Jupe are impressive with the material as Regan and Marcus, respectively. Regan is the eldest sibling, who like the actress who plays her, happens to be deaf. Simmonds’ casting came from Krasinski wanting to capture the authenticity and also gain the insight needed for the film.
Marcus is the somewhat timid and very frightened youngest son, who must find his courage to help his family to survive. Blunt plays Evelyn and Krasinski plays Lee, and each of the four lead characters are given their own internal storylines as they try to navigate the maddeningly silent world of a 2020 overrun by blind monsters with immensely sensitive hearing and a penchant for very quickly wiping out the source of any noise. Its head opens up like a blossoming flower, and calls to mind the Demogorgon seen in Netflix’s Stranger Things.
The script ingeniously finds creative ways to build and build upon the ever-growing dread that it has established. The level of tension is maintained for the entirety of the picture, but it takes great care in its handling of the various themes and also the singular moments that become the seeds for later scenes. Evelyn is noticeably pregnant, which is, as we’re well versed in, a bad sign of things to come. She is still coming to grips with an emotional trauma shared with the remaining members of her family, which is highlighted in a wonderful scene that links them all together even when they’re farther apart than they’d been at any other time. Her staunch approach to parenthood is emphasised by her desperate desire to ensure her children acquire the skills needed to survive in this new world.
Krasinski’s Lee is the most identifiable character, mostly because he’s the most active. He’s tasked with ensuring the health and safety of his family, with a pregnant wife and two young children who need support and protection. He’s cautious, devoted, but often downbeat and his relationship with Regan is important mostly due to how it is left at the film’s conclusion. As the director, Krasinski is committed to creating a kind of claustrophobia whereby no place ever feels safe when one of the creatures are close by. When one terrifying moment is overcome, another one quickly takes its place. Any risk of this becoming tiresome is relieved by its brisk run-time, as well as the skill with which the entire thing is crafted.
Scenes are designed to specifically test the shortcomings of each of the characters, whether it be Marcus’s fear, Regan’s loss of faith in her father and her subsequent guilt, or that same guilt shared by Evelyn and Lee, the latter of whom is so committed to protecting his family that he often forgets to show them love. Krasinski has a firm hold on the tension he’s crafting, effectively and efficiently introducing elements that play a role sooner or later. There’s also the case of the ticking time bomb, that being Evelyn’s fast-approaching labour, and we’re left to wonder how exactly they’re expected to bring a child into a silent world safely.
The concept of this being just “one bad day” amidst a number of relatively incident-free ones helps with the immersion of the film. Often it can be a blessing to an audience because we’re led to believe that not everything that’s happened since these monsters arrived is necessarily dramatic and integral enough for us to witness. The script takes a “less is more” approach, cueing us in with minor details such as newspaper clippings or strewn-about hearing aids on Lee’s downstairs work desk.
The narrative and its themes are fairly basic yet its construction is intelligent and polished. If the film is occasionally predictable, I actually think that’s the point. You don’t show a rusted nail up close and sticking out of the floorboard with no intention of using it. It calls to mind Alfred Hitchcock’s theory of suspense versus surprise, where showing the audience the bomb under the table is a more powerful tool than simply having the bomb go off with no forewarning. Here there are examples of that tried and tested approach everywhere.
With this, his third directorial feature, Krasinski may have just found his own voice and his place in the mainstream consciousness, and Blunt puts in the kind of performance we’d expect. Often beautiful, particularly thanks to cinematographer Charlotte Christensen, and even remaining so during the film’s most intense moments, A Quiet Place is likely to be this year’s big horror hit. With its own defining traits and enough heart and warmth to separate itself from less proficient entries to the genre, it knows when to fluctuate in tone and how to create a relationship between viewers and its characters so that, when the monsters come, no one so much as shuffles in their seat.
Film ’89 Verdict – 9/10
A Quiet Place is on general release in the U.K. and U.S. now.