A Quiet Place

Paramount Pictures

SPOILER ALERT

Co-Writer/Director John Krasinski

We have all been in situations where we should be quiet, maybe even need to be quiet. What if being quiet every moment, every second, was the only way to keep you and your family alive? What would you do to protect them? Living out that simple premiss is a very difficult reality in this ambitious and beautifully realized horror/science fiction film.

I am so impressed with A Quiet Place and with Mr. Krasinski’s work as the main creative force behind it. It’s a tightly written story (credited to Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, the other screenplay co-writers) and very well executed, with all the right beats creating a satisfying tone. The characters in the family are authentic and imperfect, with the kinds of communications issues any family has, exacerbated by their dire circumstances. The emotional bonds between them and the challenges to live rather than survive kept me invested. The use of sound is masterful with the stakes incredibly high since the story hinges on that element.

With each of his two previous features (Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, The Hollars) Krasinski has shown promise as a director and with this film he’s reached a higher level. Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s cinematography, especially in composition, camera placement and movement, does so much to reinforce the emotional temperature of each scene, as does Christopher Tellefsen’s editing – both essential elements in the horror/suspense genre. Likewise, Marco Beltrami’s score is an able partner to the visuals, with great cues and a metronome of heartbeat bass tone to intensify the fear factor. The creature visuals are also great, and Krasinski knows how little to reveal to keep the suspense high before we see the creatures fully. It’s also very satisfying that once revealed, we are shown detailed shots lasting enough to see how dangerous and frightening the creatures really are.

That Krasinski can also deliver a very solid acting performance as the father Lee, in the midst of directing so well, is no small feat. The film features excellent work by the two principle child actors, Noah Jupe, as son Marcus, and Millicent Simmonds as deaf/mute daughter Regan. It was only natural to cast a deaf actor to play a deaf character, but doing so in no way diminishes Ms. Simmonds’ talent and craft. We saw her do very well in her debut Wonderstruck, and this turn builds upon that.

Emily Blunt as the mother Evelyn, gives a bedrock performance. After her work in Looper, and Edge of Tomorrow, I was fully convinced at her ability to play a lead action hero, and her performance here only strengthens that belief because in all those roles she so effectively plays both the bad-ass and soft sides of her characters. I believe that Evelyn is a loving, nurturing, compassionate mother, who has all the resolve, courage and capability to take a fight to the finish.

In a story where the characters’ lives depend on staying quiet, the challenges of communicating through dialog become enormous. Krasinski strikes the right balance by having the characters use American Sign Language and gestures, and an occasional whisper, and having a couple of scenes where they feel safe enough to speak in normal voices with each other. But the brilliant twist is that the deaf character holds the key to survival. The sound design and editing emphasizes Regan’s world, changing when we see the story from her point of view then switching back to ‘normal’ audio. It underscores the imperative of silence and helps us feel the isolation Regan experiences (exacerbated by her guilt over a tragedy early in the film). It also highlights her vulnerability as someone who cannot hear that danger is close and is challenged to gauge how quiet she is being, which are life and death matters in this world.

In Krasinski’s third effort as a director, he weaves all the elements together creating a thrilling experience, hitting the right genre notes with a sophisticated touch right from the start through the finish. It’s a Must See and one of my favorites of this year, making it very difficult for me to keep quiet about that.

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