FILM REVIEW: ‘A Quiet Place’ Updates The Creature Feature
Imagine a post-apocalyptic world where making sound can spell your doom. Where facial expressions, sign language and bonfires define communication. Where nasty, armored creatures with highly-refined hearing membranes (and huge claws) wait to pounce on you. Sounds horrific. Well, it is. It’s the premise of an excellent new horror film from director John Krasinski who also co-produced, wrote and stars in the film.
The story of A Quiet Place spans approximately thirteen months, in the year 2020. Posters and aging newspaper clippings quickly reveal humankind has been ravaged by a merciless alien force. A family of five tip-toe into the nearest town to take supplies from the shelves of ransacked stores. No shoes, no conversation, no electronic toys – fear and isolation define their life together as they carefully make their way back to their rural farmhouse.
This could have been a re-hash of so many “creature feature” cliches. However, the detailed direction, fluid editing, superb acting and timely twists make this movie stand out in the genre. Krasinski and his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, play Lee and Evelyn, a highly resourceful couple devoted to their kids. Each of the children has a distinct personality, too, so as the story unfolds in an appropriately measured (and largely silent) way, we come to know and care about all of them. Their fate matters to us.
Directing just his second feature film, Krasinski exhibits a wonderful sense of style. In one early sequence we see the family adhering to a series of visual “ribbons” on their daily rounds: from a white line on a city street to a railroad track to a narrow path through the woods. Likewise, the landscape looks absolutely poetic., Krasinski elicits a superb performance from Blunt, whose face and body language speak volumes, even as she has precious little spoken dialogue. Consider the challenge of childbirth in this paranoid little world in upstate New York. Yes, this is a far cry from her next big-screen role as Mary Poppins.
When you have a movie populated by monsters who hunt by sound, the audio dimension of the storytelling becomes critical. Here again, A Quiet Place shines. From the almost complete reliance on subtle, natural sound at the outset, through a few whispered exchanges between the characters, to the increasingly ominous musical cues from composer Marco Beltrami (who also scored last year’s Oscar-nominated Logan), the sound design
excels. Not to mention the irony of creatures who can only hear sharing the same narrative with a teenage girl who cannot. Millicent Simmonds, a talented young deaf actress who previously appeared in Wonderstruck, portrays her.
At only 90 minutes, A Quiet Place is an economical, thoughtful study in dread that knows when to end…and how!
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