A Quiet Place
After a couple of middling dramedies, The American Office’s John Krasinski subverts expectations with his third directorial effort, turning out a tight, tense, and downright enjoyable sci-fi, horror-thriller. A Quiet Place is an efficient dystopian near-future tale about a family in full survival mode, inhabiting a heavily depopulated world, which is being roamed by blind armoured beasts who hunt by sound. The only people to survive thus far seem to be those who have learnt the art of living in relative silence, but it’s not much of a life.
Krasinski—who writes, directs, and stars—anchors the family unit (mum, dad, and three kids) as Lee Abbott, father and primary organiser. But it is Krasinski’s real life partner Emily Blunt (this is their first work collaboration) who is the film’s acting MVP, imparting believable terror, determination, and familial warmth in perfect measure as her character Evelyn struggles to keep her family from splintering under the tension of constant self-repression. One gets the feeling that the Abbotts may only have survived as long as they have due to their already possessing a working knowledge of sign language; indeed we are quickly faced with the difficult realities of looking after children in such an environment, but they have learnt to manage.
The film wisely eschews a lengthy expository prologue, instead launching with an introductory action piece that effectively sets up the state of the world, the key characters and relationships, and the major threats faced by our protagonist family, the Abbotts. Despite being shown evidence of other survivors, the film doesn’t go much beyond this central ensemble, choosing to boundary the film’s narrative inside their tale. Alongside an uncomplicated narrative, the filmmakers favour visual cues in lieu of heavy loads of expository dialogue. These factors combine to deliver a fleet 90 minute viewing experience. Although it has to be said: the film’s visual exposition is as blunt as can be, including such devices as an ‘exposition whiteboard’, a montage of clippings of bold-type explanatory newspaper headlines conveniently splayed across a table-top, and cutbacks to significant moments from earlier in the film, just in case you missed their significance the first time! Oh well, at least most viewers will not be left wondering.
The camerawork is decent, if not overly remarkable, but the use of sound is as smart as you would hope a film with such a title might be. The filmmakers make liberal use of silence and diegetic sound contrasted with a forward, thrillery score c/o New York based composer Marco Beltrami, whose recent soundtrack work includes The Shallows (2016) and Logan (2017). Some (myself included) might find the music a little heavy on the low, tuba-fuelled bombast—hello Michael Bay in the producer’s seat!—but there is no denying the blend of silence and musical score does a good job of maintaining tension. And the creatures, who we end up seeing a lot of in the latter part of the film, are well realised without chewing up too much of the screen.
As good as the horror-thriller elements of the film are, A Quiet Place is elevated above its genre peers care of its emotional core. The script is as focused on the threat of relational collapse of this tight knit group of people, as it is in the external dangers from the creatures. If they can’t pull together then they are lost, and this provides a sense of stakes, which many lesser genre contemporaries’ lack. I’m excited to see what Krasinski comes up with next because this is a fantastic calling card.
Rating: M Violence & horror scenes. Content may disturb..