Like Scream and It Follows, A Quiet Place opens with what would be an excellent standalone short film. After a “Day 89” title card, the camera is alone in a destroyed pharmacy. A set of little feet patter by. Slowly, director-writer-star John Krasinski introduces us to the family of protagonists. There’s an urgency to the silence. He shows us Evelyn (Emily Blunt, who’s married to Krasinski) easing pill bottles off a shelf to avoid clicking. The scene is soaked in tension, and if a viewer came in without any foreknowledge (admittedly difficult given the marketing blitz before the first film), it’s all underscored by one question: What are they afraid of?
It’s a question that drives the entire film. Even after one of the creatures appears to end that opening sequence, the answers are still missing. Lee (Krasinski) doesn’t have the answers, but he’s written the comically little he knows about the monsters on a whiteboard, bordered by tacked up newspaper articles. In a film that’s almost entirely free of dialogue, the set design takes over, giving viewers everything they need to know in a few brief moments. While the board has been mocked, it’s simplicity is perfect for viewers in theaters, who have a limited time to read it.
That basement also helps to flesh out Lee’s relationship with his daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds). Across from his creature research, he has some jury-rigged hearing aids and a set of books about the human ear. Their fractured relationship is part of the emotional core of A Quiet Place. She blames herself for her youngest brother’s death, and believes her father does as well because of his stoicism. Since she’s not allowed in the basement, viewers get to see how much work he’s putting into helping her while she doesn’t. The fissure between them critiques toxic masculinity by demonstrating the way a Lee’s inability or refusal to express his emotions openly poisons his relationships with those around him.
Regan’s deafness serves the film in other ways as well. Since her family has already learned American Sign Language to communicate with her, they’re uniquely equipped to survive the sound-hunting monsters. A Quiet Place should also be lauded for the decision to cast Simmonds, a deaf performer, to play a deaf character. She brings an authenticity to the role, while serving as an unofficial safeguard onset for everyone else’s sign language, something the rest of the crew praises her for in, “Creating the Quiet: Behind the Scenes in A Quiet Place.”
Simmonds performance is excellent, but it’s at it’s best in a scene early on when she and her brother Marcus (Noah Jupe) are playing Monopoly with felt pieces, rolling the dice onto a thick carpet. What makes this scene so good is the joy Simmonds and Jupe bring to it. It makes viewers care about the characters, so they don’t feel like cannon fodder when things get dangerous later on. Krasinski gets admirable performances from both of the youngsters in the more tense scenes as well.
The best performance of A Quiet Place, without a doubt, was by Blunt. She is a powerhouse. The most tense moment in a suspense-filled film is watching her trying to hold in a scream. She communicates her pain so well, silently. It’s enough to make viewers scream at home.
Krasinski’s performance isn’t up to level of Blunt’s, though it may not be his fault. It’s hard to watch him without seeing his lovable paper salesman, Jim Halpert, from the American version of The Office. That being said, it’s unbelievable that this is his first time behind the camera. The film is so confident and boiling over with tension for nearly it’s entire 90-minute runtime.
With A Quiet Place 2 Part II prone to pounce on anyone or anything that makes a noise on March 20, Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing a Mondo X Steelbook 4K Ultra HD Combo of A Quiet Place to catch you up. It includes more than 30 minutes of special features, including: “Creating the Quiet: Behind the Scenes in A Quiet Place,” “The Sound of Darkness: Editing Sound for A Quiet Place,” and “A Reason for Silence: The Visual Effects of A Quiet Place.” Each is excellent, but hearing about how the engineers tried to create different kinds of silence for A Quiet Place is fascinating.
Wicked Rating – 9/10
Director: John Krasinski
Writers: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
Release Date: March 10, 2020 (Mondo X Steelbook 4K Ultra HD Combo)
Studio/Production Company: Paramount Pictures, Platinum Dunes
Language: American Sign Language, English