A Quiet Place, the second feature from actor/director John Krasinski, was hailed by many as an instant classic when it appeared earlier this year. Its central premise - that a family must live in total silence lest they be found and killed by the monsters that now roam the Earth - was innovative enough to earn it over $300 million at the box office and near-unanimous critical praise.
The premise is relatively simple. The Earth has been ravaged by predatory creatures with ultra-sensitive hearing, who attack and kill anything that makes a sound. One surviving family, consisting of Krasinski, his (real life) wife Emily Blunt, and their young children, take refuge in a remote farmhouse and try to survive. The film charts their silent life interspersed with their battle for survival against the creatures.
Following an opening that demonstrations just how high the stakes are (if you thought those kids’ toys that blared irritating sounds were annoying before, you ain’t seen nothing yet), the film soon settles down, showing us the family’s survival in the post-apocalyptic world. They go about their daily routine, communicating through sign language (a by-product of raising their daughter, well played by young deaf actor Millicent Simmonds), learning to hunt, and adapting their house for a silent life. There are marked-up floorboards where it’s not safe to tread, fairy lights to warn of danger, and beacons to communicate with the (largely unseen) neighbours. In lieu of spoken exposition, the farmhouse is covered with newspapers and articles offering clues to the creatures’ origins and charting society’s breakdown.
Of course, there’s an ever-present sense of dread overhanging this sedate routine. The slightest noise can have fatal consequences, and the occasional sounds that punctuate the silence are even more shocking once you’re aware of their repercussions. The creatures - blind but with an acute sense of hearing - home in on the slightest noise. Devilishly quick and deadly, they’re an ever-present fear for the family.
They’re also one of the film’s biggest weaknesses. Krasinski can’t resist the temptation to show off his monsters. Rather than leaving them lurking in the shadows, we’re exposed to them early and frequently, largely ruining any suspense they might have offered. Exposing them so much might not have been as much of an issue if they’d been genuinely scary, but the design is rather generic - the kind of thing that wouldn’t have made it past the concept art stage had a creature feature master like del Toro or Peter Jackson been at the helm.
If the creatures are somewhat of a let-down, Emily Blunt more than makes up for it. She’s consistently one of Hollywood’s best actors, and she conveys more heartbreak and terror here with a single look than many actors can when they’re allowed to speak. The same cannot be said for Krasinski, unfortunately. Normally a likeable screen presence, here he seems to confuse ‘having a beard’ with ‘having depth’. He’s by no means bad, but he’s so out-acted by his wife, when they’re in a scene together he might as well not have bothered turning up.
Extras-wise, the Blu-ray’s somewhat of a disappointment, with only three short featurettes. At the very least we deserved a commentary so Krasinski could explain why his silence-adapted house has ill-placed nails sticking out of the floor.
While A Quiet Place may not live up to the hype that greeted its arrival, it’s a fun movie and one that’s well worth 90 minutes of your time. Krasinski’s a promising director, Blunt a fantastic screen presence, and with the sequel already on its way, we’re all going to have to get used to eating our popcorn in silence
A QUIET PLACE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOHN KRASINSKI / SCREENPLAY: BRYAN WOODS, SCOTT BECK, JOHN KRASINSKI / STARRING: EMILY BLUNT, JOHN KRASINSKI, MILLICENT SIMMONDS / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 13TH