A Quiet Place opens with what could easily pass as a superb ten-minute short film.
The Abbott family-A mother, father, and three children-are raiding a small general store for supplies, specifically medicine for their middle child Marcus (Noah Jupe). On-screen text informs us that it has been just over 80 days since…something happened.
The youngest child, Beau (Cade Woodward), finds a toy rocket ship, but his father, Lee (John Krasinski, also the film’s director and one of its three writers), takes it away, gently reminding the child in sign-language that the toy is ‘too loud’. However, after Lee and his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt, also Krasinski’s real-life spouse) have left, their eldest child Regan (played with incredible honesty by Millicent Simmonds) returns the rocket to him.
As the family makes the long, silent trek back to their farm, walking in a line on a carefully lain path of white sand, we get glimpses of the world they now inhabit: walls covered floor-to-ceiling in “MISSING” posters, newspaper articles reporting on some kind of apocalyptic invasion, and absolutely no other people around.
Then, without warning, Beau turns on his toy rocket.
Evelyn sobs, covering her mouth to suppress her screams.
Lee sprints toward him, trying to keep pace with something in the woods.
And then, a massive shape erupts from the trees, and violently pulls Beau off screen.
We cut to black, silence prevails…and the opening title fades in.
There’s about an hour and twenty minutes of film following this opening scene, and I won’t reveal another word of it. To do so would be a detriment to the incredible pacing and characterization that this film possesses.
I will, however, discuss the talent involved, and the rich characters which make this film as great as it is.
From a technical standpoint, A Quiet Place is a triumph.
The cinematography is superb. It is controlled and subtle, the camera never moving more than it absolutely has to, never showing us more than is absolutely necessary. Each shot feels carefully framed to show us exactly what we need to see. No more, no less.
It is an understated style that I would guess took a huge amount of effort from everyone involved.
This is also one of the few monster films in recent memory that relied entirely on digital effects for its monsters and actually flourished because of it. The monsters are presented to us as nigh-indestructible”angels of death”, laying waste to anything that makes too much noise, human or otherwise.
They are faster than anything human, strong enough to rip through steel walls like tissue paper, and their hearing is attuned to the point where they can hear the ticking of an egg-timer from a great distance.
Yet the movie never makes the monsters feel too over-the-top. It sounds strange to say, but the monsters in A Quiet Place make more sense than many I’ve seen. By the time the credits roll, we are left feeling like we understand, to some extent, how they function.
For all its well deserved technical merit, however, it is the actors that make A Quiet Place the success that it is.
Krasinski and Blunt portray the parents of this small, post-apocalyptic family with absolute grace. They are not the hardened, grizzled adults you usually see in movies like this. They are kind, loving parents who want nothing more than to care for their children.
Obviously, the fact that they are a real couple helps, and the connection they share is a huge advantage for the film.
Simmonds, as the eldest daughter, shines in every scene. She is still trying to move past the guilt surrounding her brother’s death, while also dealing with her own personal problem: she is deaf.
Obviously, deafness is dangerous in a world like this, where you must be aware of every sound you make, and a running theme in the film is her father’s many attempts to repair the cochlear implant that allows her to hear.
Jupe, as the middle (and now youngest) Abbott child, is struggling to find his place in the family. Gender roles are a huge subtext of the film, and young Marcus is expected to join his father in the wild on hunting expeditions.
Marcus, however, is justifiably terrified of the outside world, after witnessing the brutal demise of his younger brother.
The dynamic between the two children and their parents feels totally believable. It is never too dramatic, never too warm, and always strained but never totally broken. It feels like a real-world dynamic simply trying to exist in an unreal situation.
Obviously, if you wanted to nit-pick issues with the film, you could. The rules on when sound is and isn’t okay are occasionally stretched. The ending feels a little cliche. But I think to point out all the flaws in A Quiet Place would take away from what is ultimately a hugely enjoyable film.
This is more than a film about the apocalypse, more than a film about monsters, and more than a film about sound. A Quiet Place is a film about family. It’s about mother and fatherhood, overcoming adversity, and guilt. It’s about growing up.
“A Quiet Place” isn’t just worth seeing because it’s scary (though it certainly is). It is worth seeing because behind all its fangs and frights, this is a film with a whole lot of heart.