Go a whole hour without make a sound. You can’t sit still; you have to go about your daily life, but you can’t make a sound. If you do, you die. That simple sonic twist is the bread and butter on which John Krasinski (who both stars in and artfully directs the film) bases A Quiet Place. Alien invasions have been done to death. Post-apocalyptic is so last decade. Everything in A Quiet Place is something that’s been done before, but never, to my knowledge, with sound as the difference between life and death.
Back to you, trying to be quiet, what are you doing? Reading? Did you drop your book? You died. Laughed at something clever in the writing? Dead. Now, what if you had to live in a barren world with those kind of stakes, gather food, raise your family, communicate, protect yourself, just simply walk…..with no noise or you die. A Quiet Place is a familiar thing done in an original way and the result is and extraordinarily tense, well-acted, unforgettable film.
A Quiet Place follows a family of five, living on a farm on the outskirts of a small town. We begin 88 days into the invasion, and because of the limitation on sound, most of the exposition regarding the invasion, the aliens, and what we know about the family takes place through either written cues for the audience in some form or another or through the family’s primary method of communication: American Sign Language (ASL). The family’s oldest child is deaf, so the family was fluent before the invasion, and those are all the plot cues I’m handing out. Krasinski does a fantastic job of setting up an escalating chain of events throughout the film, giving you all the information you need to understand the stakes at just the right time, and not overblowing his conceit (the film is only 97 minutes).
This film should already have a lock on nominations for both Oscar sound categories, and seeing it in the theater is urged, not so much for visual spectacle, but for the caliber of sound system you likely don’t have at home. Score is used sparingly, and almost as a cue that everything is going to be okay for a little bit, but most of the film is sound effects of wildly varying volumes. Every clink, crunch, or misstep might bring on an onslaught of monsters, so to really experience the beauty of the mixing job they did on this, you need a theater.
Both Krasinski and Emily Blunt (who has to be one of my five favorite actresses working) are spectacular. They have to do so much with non-verbal communication, be it ASL, or body language, or facial expressions, and they both give wonderful performances.
My audience completely bought into the world within 20 minutes. I have never been in a theater where an audience was trying so hard to be so quiet, not out of politeness (which does not exist in movie theaters), but because they were so tense and buying into the rules of this film, that they were doing anything to not cough, open candy, or budge from their seats. It was so quiet that if someone had to shift positions due to the airplane quality seating we get in most theaters now, that everyone’s head swiveled in the offender’s direction. That’s when you know you got an audience. A Quiet Place is more a thriller than a horror film, but its original formula keeps you riveted. Who knew Jim from The Office was such a fantastic director? Go find yourself A Quiet Place!
PS – If you didn’t stop earlier, you can make a sound now…..probably.