It’s no secret that Paramount Pictures has struggled in recent months at the box office. Coming off a year where they collected only 5% of the total box office, it was clear that they needed to change course. With no major franchises outside of Transformers and Mission Impossible, the studio has turned to more mid-budget, high-concept films, and A Quiet Place is exactly that. The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: John Krasinski
Written By: John Krasinski, Bryan Woods, and Scott Beck
After a mysterious event leaves the Earth populated by monsters, the survivors live by one rule: stay silent. These strange beasts hunt based on sound, meaning that everyone must stay silent, or else they’ll most likely die tragically.
Living in the countryside, a family led by Evelyn (Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) must navigate the monsters and fight for survival, but staying silent won’t be easy given the circumstances.
Most of the press for A Quiet Place is focusing on John Krasinski as a rising director, but the film is actually a labor of love from writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. The duo grew up together in the state of Iowa, eventually watching numerous silent films together in their college years. In 2013, the duo began crafting the story to what would become A Quiet Place, using elements from their life that heavily influenced set pieces in the final product (a grain silo near their house was considered dangerous).
Eventually, Woods and Beck put a spec script together, and Krasinski immediately fell in love with it after reading it. Krasinski and his wife Emily Blunt had just had their second child at the time, and the idea of protecting their family in a film by any means necessary obviously spoke to their personal lives. Krasinski was so moved by the script that Blunt urged him to direct the film himself, and he eventually obliged.
A Quiet Place Keeps Finding New Ways to Create Tension
A common saying in the industry is that “no one ever complains when a movie is too short,” and it seems like Krasinski took that idea to heart with A Quiet Place. The movie is refreshingly short and simple, filling its entire runtime with important moments — not a second is wasted.
The movie is always doing one of two things. 1) it provides effective backstory and character beats to create an audience attachment to the movie. Or 2) it sets up white-knuckle, thriller set pieces with its interesting creatures. Even better, #1 makes #2 that much more satisfying.
A Quiet Place is a rather small story in terms of scope, but its use of the land is incredibly effective, using just about everything to its disposal to create consistently entertaining — and horrifying — situations that our characters must find ways to escape. There’s an element of creativity to every sequence, meaning that you never have time to relax as a viewer. The characters are on edge every step of the way, and you won’t exhale until the end of the film as a result.
John Krasinski does a masterful job as a director in that sense. He’s certainly come a long way since his last directorial effort: The Hollars.
Impeccable Sound Design and Clever Nonverbal Cues Will Put You on Pins and Needles
Where this movie truly exceeds is in its wonderful use of sound. Clearly, living in silence is less than ideal given what happens if you step wrong and make a creak in the floorboards, and you feel the torment from the characters every step of the way. With so few chances for dialogue, the actors can really only express themselves with facial expressions and sign language — that’s it.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some great acting to behold in A Quiet Place, because this movie is a verified masterclass in nonverbal acting. The clear stand-out is Emily Blunt in that respect as she contorts her face in pure anguish and fear without a single peep. You know everything you need to know in every situation just from looking at the characters’ faces, and we were certainly overdue for a movie that used circumstance and primal expression to convey thoughts instead of long, flowery diatribes that are severely overwritten.
Most of the time, all you hear is ambient noise, perhaps a tree whistling in the breeze. A Quiet Place handles these moments so well, incorporating the sound into the scene in some manner. Krasinski even demanded that the set be as quiet as possible so that sound equipment could pick up these tiny details. Never has the rustling of leaves sounded so eerie.
As you would know from the promotional material, one of the children in the film is deaf, both in the film and in real life as a matter of fact. Krasinski expertly uses this wrinkle to the film’s advantage, showing scenes from the perspective of the child where there is no sound whatsoever. If you see A Quiet Place with a packed crowd, you’ll hear a collective gasp every time it occurs.
A Quiet Place just keeps finding ways to be effective, and it’s pretty wonderful to see everything unfold.
AQP Unfortunately Succumbs to Some Less than Intelligent Decisions
But sometimes, A Quiet Place just can’t help itself from using some tired, unnecessary horror clichés.
It’s important to know that there can be good and bad jumps scares. When a jump scare leads into a prolonged horror sequence, they can be quite effective. In fact, A Quiet Place has a lot of solid, jumpy scares. But, when they’re more or less a red herring for a rodent or some other nonlethal entity, then the movie is just toying with the audience at that point, and that’s never a good thing to do.
There’s just one piece of this story that I can’t get forgive. For all the clever rigs and ways that this family lives life in silence, the parents put everyone else in danger by attempting to right a past wrong, one that would theoretically make the family whole once again. For anyone trying to enter A Quiet Place as blind as possible (which is definitely the way to see this movie), I’ll do you a solid and keep spoilers out of this particular discussion. It’s not the most eloquent critique I’ve ever created, but I found myself internally screaming, “WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU DO THAT?”
Who knows, maybe I’ll create a spoiler-filled article on the subject. After all, I do have that kind of power here at MovieBabble.
Simple and effective, A Quiet Place doesn’t waste a moment, using every single frame to create a sense of dread or further the characters at the story’s core.
Without the ability to use sound, the characters can never reach a state of catharsis and release their emotions, and the tension becomes as tight as a snare drum as a result. While Krasinski can’t help himself in using a few tropes that horror/thriller fans have seen for decades, there’s no doubting that A Quiet Place is a triumph, and a sign of things to come from Krasinski as a director.
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