Nico’s Movie Review: ‘A Quiet Place’ Is Tense And Inventive
This movie did what I was worried it couldn't do; it made me forget the lead was Jim Halpert from The Office.
John Krasinki isn't just the lead in A Quiet Place, though; he's also the director, and co-wrote the screenplay for this movie. So what is it?
A Quiet Place is a horror movie, about a family that lives in the woods... somewhere (maybe the northeast, like Maine or something?). Some time before the events of the movie, the area is infested with creatures that hunt via an extremely sensitive sense of hearing; the film covers a short snapshot in the life of this family, in their attempts to survive and stay silent.
This premise allows for such an interesting film, and I wasn't disappointed. So much of the movie is spent in silence, to the point where every little breath, or crunch of toes in the sand is significant. It's a premise that forces the filmmakers to be creative in their storytelling, as having your characters go into lengthy exposition isn't an option. For example, our family was able to survive longer than most because they have a daughter who is deaf, and they learned sign language as a result. None of this is spelled out, but it's intuitive to the viewer.
In this facet, A Quiet Place excels, because there is so much going on in a film that really doesn't have a whole lot of action, or forward movement of the plot. This isn't an action movie, and it's not a slasher, and our characters don't go on an adventure. It simply follows this small group and there relationships as they attempt to adapt to this new, quiet world.
The drawback of this film-making style, however, is that there isn't as much room for character development. I was worried at the onset there wouldn't be any development at all, and luckily my worries were unfounded; the arcs that Krasinski and his daughter go through in particular are satisfying, if a bit simplistic.
"satisfying, if a bit simplistic" might be the best way to describe the plot itself of A Quiet Place, as well as its pacing. The film carries a fantastic atmosphere of dread and intensity at all times, as the omnipresent monsters hear everything. Speaking of the monsters, their designs are fantastic, and definitely a highlight of this film (to my surprise, actually; I normally don't like it when movies show the monster). But honestly, not a whole lot happens in this movie.
I understand it's supposed to be intimate and just give us a snapshot into the lives of these people. But I felt like they were stretching for time at some points; a large chunk of the third act follows the formula of "monster shows up, characters think they're toast, something allows them to escape, they find a new hiding place". Rinse and repeat like four or five times in a row.
While we are talking cliches, I think this movie does a fair job avoiding them for the most part. There are jump scares, yes, but I feel like A Quiet Place is the one time they feel appropriate. Everything is really quiet for a reason, so loud noises are naturally going to startle. And unlike films like Insidious: The Last Key, this movie has suspense and atmosphere, which allows things like jump scares to serve as flavor, not as the meat of the horror.
Now, on to the actors: John Krasinski as Lee Abbott was a treat. I knew he could act, as The Office had its serious moments, but he impressed me here. He's not playing any superhero, or some Ash from Evil Dead badass, or even a natureboy who knows better how to survive than city slickers; he's just a normal guy who adapted to the circumstances to protect his family.
Emily Blunt as Lee's wife Evelyn brought conflicted feelings to me; at points, I felt she was a generic "woman in a horror movie", but at other times she let some character shine through, like through interactions with her children while they study. She wasn't bad, I just felt like her character didn't get as much focus. The chemistry between Blunt and Krasinski was obvious, though; those two should get married or something!
The children in A Quiet Place are pretty good in their own ways; Millicent Simmonds plays Regan, and like her character she is totally deaf. I like her character, and the way she grows through the film is satisfying; being a teenager is hard enough, so I'd imagine it's even harder in the post-apocalypse. You might remember Noah Jupe from Wonder; I like him in that, and I like him in this. Again, he didn't get as much development character wise, but I don't feel robbed by it.
A Quiet Place isn't perfect, but it is by far the best horror movie I've seen this year. It might even be my favorite film I've reviewed this year. It has a novel concept, that is executed well, and while it isn't entirely free of cliche it knows how to use tropes effectively, as opposed to doing them just because.
I'd absolutely recommend anyone who isn't afraid of horror movies to see this film.
See the trailer below.