A Quiet Place – 2018
Director John Krasinski
Screenplay Bryan Woods, Scott Back, John Krasinski
Starring Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward
There is an attention to detail in A Quiet Place rarely seen in horror films. It’s not just the signs on the wall, post apocalypse, indicating what happened in bite sized portions. It’s not just the two-toned track lighting of red and white. It certainly isn’t just the house that is open, and used, but not lived within. It’s not just the bonfires on top of the silo at night, symbolically reciprocated by other farms in the area.
Lee and Evelyn Abbott (real life couple Krasinski and Blunt) live with their family in an environment controlled by beasts that are blind, but hunt through incredibly acute sense of hearing. There is seemingly no metal strong enough to prevent them from accessing their prey, so the survivors have learned to live silently. Even when suffering a catastrophic loss early in the film, they know not to exacerbate it by screaming.
The family lives under myriad painted and sandy footsteps. The paths lead all the way through houses and all the way to town and back. These paths are routinely and patiently maintained. If we see a disturbance on the path via an untimely death of some sort. One can be sure there will be someone fixing that disturbance quietly the next day.
The language spoken between the family members is as deeply expressionistic sign as I have ever seen. If it weren’t for the circumstances demanding silence, this would be necessary, as their oldest child Regan (Simmonds) is deaf. Sign is seen as more than a necessity here, though. Each of the actors gives themselves completely to the motions of the language, and it gives an extra dimension to the acting. It may be the thing I remember most about this film.
Of course the film is silent. It’s probably the only time I have been made aware of the silence in the theater to the extent I didn’t even want to adjust my position in the chair for fear I would break the spell. The few times we hear noise in the film, we have a minor sense of panic. Will that be the noise that unravels everything?
Then there are the times we hear the noise that we know everything is going to be different from then on in the film.
There are some obvious tells in the film. We see an upturned nail in one scene, it’s clear that this nail will find purchase at some other crucial point in the film, in the spirit of James Fenimore Cooper. When one considers all the things Krasinski and his team get right in this film, it’s a compromise that is willingly taken.
There is great care and understanding of humanity with Krasinski’s lens. He’s understood the power of locking eyes back in his days in The Office. If he hones his powers of observation, he has several classics awaiting in his future as a director.
There is a sequence involving Lee and his daughter, Regan and her hearing piece. He’s constantly working on new versions of this device for her, but none of them ever seem to work. Her disappointment in his insistence is something I can relate to as a father who’s disappointed my own daughter with her belief I will never understand her. The whole sequence is so artfully drawn, it stands out as something greater than just a movie scenario.
The rest of the cast, small as it is, are brilliantly portrayed. This is largely due to the circumstance of acting with their whole bodies. Blunt is as good at this as she is at comedy, sci-fi, romance and action. It’s astounding the range she has been able to amass in her career. I am never surprised to find her taking on a new venture.
Simmonds and Jupe are given a lot of room to develop. Each has their own path to travel in the story and when each goes off of the path, it’s not just a dramatic ploy. There are true motivations to each person and their choices. It lends weight to their journey and makes their lives worth something.
Whether or not one gets any reaction to the look and pliability of the monsters is up to the individual. I found there to be aspects of their ears essential to adding fear. By the end, I saw too much of them to not consider the fact that they are heavily animated. The rest of the film does much to counter this feeling, though.
This is as good a film as has been released this year. I am interested in seeing more of Krasinski and Blunt working together.
(**** out of *****)