It’s one thing to have a good idea for a thriller movie, and it’s another to execute it. A Quiet Place achieves both, with some style, quality acting, and tension to make you squirm in your seat. Most of all, the pleasure comes from the detail. These film makers have clearly put a lot of thought into constructing a story where you have to stay silent to stay alive.
The central characters are Evelyn and Lee (real life husband and wife Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, who’s also directed the movie) and their children Regan, Marcus and Beau (Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, and Cade Woodward), who live on a farm. Newspaper cuttings tell us the background. Aliens have taken over, and though blind, they attack anything they hear.
So the family has worked out how to survive. They use sign language. Their house is configured just so. They figure out a way to walk around without making wooden floorboards creak, how to serve food quietly, and how to walk along the path to their home without noisily stepping on twigs and branches. They devise a method to communicate with other farmers nearby.
It’s in these sorts of details that put you in the position of thinking “how would I do it?”. That’s surely the best way to draw in an audience, and the feeling of being there with the family is enhanced by the fact that the sound track is used sparingly. There’s plenty of time where the audience is sharing the silence with the characters on screen. And then when danger comes, part of the fun (if fun is the right word) of the film is to see how the family reacts to the alien threat, without making a noise.
What also helps is the quality of the acting. Emily Blunt and John Krasinski’s characters are smart, caring, and brave. They react in a realistic way, in a way you’d hope you would if you were a parent in the same plight. The kids are good too, especially Millicent Simmonds as the oldest child Regan.
The frights are all the more effective as, for most of the film, we don’t really get to see what the aliens look like. This is a well worn approach but it works. What you can’t see is scarier than what you can.
The other reason this is a good idea is that – and this is where I come to the main quibble of movies like this – it’s clearly really difficult to come with an original idea for what an alien looks like. I won’t spoil it for you by describing the creatures, but let’s just say if you’ve seen your share of this type of movie you’re unlikely to be too surprised. And, just at the end, there’s a moment where the film can’t help itself but fall back on a touch of the machismo. It’s enjoyable in its own way, but to me felt out of kilter with the tone of the overall piece.
These concerns aren’t enough to spoil A Quiet Place. This is a thriller/horror movie of top quality. If this is your thing, go see it. And don’t eat too loudly in the cinema (as someone did near me). It’ll spoil it for others.