Film Review: ‘A Quiet Place’ is as Devastating in its Silence

*Spoilers included below to talk about the deeper themes of the film. It will not spoil the climax of the film, but an event that occurs about 15 minutes into the film to set up the rest of the story. 

For any fan of horror films, the way in which sound is used can be key. Films like “The Exorcist,” “The Shining” or “It Follows” masterfully combine score, sound effects, and sound mixes to amplify the terror. The use of sound can often be misused as well, creating a fine line on which to tread. The new film “A Quiet Place,” does not just utilize sound to its fullest. It advances what is possible with sound. The result is one of the most innovative horror films of the past decade, while still telling us an incredibly well-told story.

The events of “A Quiet Place” about 90 days after creatures have come to Earth. They are hypersensitive to sound and begin to hunt those who make noise. We pick up on John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmons, Noah Jupe, and Cade Woodward in a pharmacy. The family is here because Marcus (Jupe) is sick and needs medicine. The youngest child, Beau (Woodward), plays with his sister (Simmons). Regan is revealed to be deaf, with her cochlear implant not working. After Lee (Krasinski) takes a toy away from Beau because it could be too loud, Regan gives him the toy back with the batteries removed. They begin their trek home, only to discover that Beau put back in the batteries when no one was looking and sets off the toy. While Lee races to save his son, it is too late, and Beau is killed by a creature.

We cut to over 400 days after the creatures have come to Earth, and the Abbott family is in disarray. There is tension between Lee and Regan, even as Lee attempts to help his daughter. The matriarch of the family, Evelyn (Blunt) is heavily pregnant, adding to the pressures on the family. The creatures are still roaming, and even though the Abbott’s seem to have their world figured out, a tension is running through the family.

This is where the film goes from good to great. There’s a lot on the bone here to dive into, especially in regards to what Krasinski is trying to tell us as both an actor and director. Krasinski charges this film with many meanings, each of which can devastate a person. The silence is literal for these characters, but it’s also metaphorical in how they live. Regan feels isolated from the family, trapped by the grief that she gave her brother the item that killed him. Each of the parents feels the trauma of losing a child in ways that has broken them. Communication is gone for most of our characters, both literally and figuratively. To be trapped by trauma, and having no way to really communicate the issues it creates, is simply astonishing.

On the flip side, the allegory also functions to question the pressures of parenthood. It can work as a story about families who lose children, and the difficulties of having another. Or it could simply be about the terror that some feel when it is time to have a child, regardless of if it is your first or second or third. The devastation the characters feel is not only relatable but something easy to empathetic about. This makes “A Quiet Place” a far more emotionally filling feature than one might expect.

The performances throughout the film are excellent. It’s tough to tell who is best in show between Blunt, Krasinski and Simmons. For my money, Simmons dominates this film. She’s given the opportunity to play another dynamic deaf character, following up on her tremendous work in “Wonderstruck” last year. Simmons is actually deaf, and as such, her performance is far more naturalistic and real than one might expect. Her frustration is still palpable, despite not being able to use words. Krasinski and Blunt are tremendous as well, with emotion and love coursing through each scene. Blunt’s role should occupy the same space as Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens” or Linda Hamilton in “Terminator 2.” It transcends the genre and will be one of the best of the year.

Krasinski also directs the hell out of this film. The world is fully realized, self-contained, and the story is beautifully paced. There are many opportunities for characters to have moments, especially when the monsters are in pursuit. The ways in which he shoots Blunt giving birth,  a scene by a waterfall, or any other scenes is simply excellent. He’s got quite an eye and should continue to develop as a director.  He also gave his sound team a ton of room to work, giving the film a unique aspect that makes the film an excellent theater-going experience. It’s definitely one I’ll remember for a long time.

I’ll admit, coming into the film I’ve been skeptical of what “A Quiet Place” could be. I’m on record with Aaron questioning whether or not this film could be successful. It’s time for me to eat crow. Based on the trailers, “A Quiet Place” looked like the sound design would be the only reason to watch this film. Yet upon sitting down in the theater, it quickly became clear that was far more going on. I genuinely feel bad if my opinions on the podcast (around the 15-minute mark) turned you off from this film. Please go see this film in theaters. It will be one of the best movie-going experiences of the year.

GRADE: (★★★½)

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