A Quiet Place

Year: 2018
Studio: Paramount
Director: John Krasinski
Writer: Bryan Woods/Scott Beck/John Krasinski
Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmons, Cade Woodward

It seems like the rash of movies lately about monsters, aliens or some sort of malevolent presence that can only hunt you according to one of the five senses meant there'd be little to enjoy in this movie. And while it's not the most original premise considering we've had Birdbox and so many others, all the critics you've read are right when they talk about how skilled Krasinski is at building tension without relying on jump scares.

Having said that, I watched it a long time after the initial flurry of adulation and conversation about it, so I could see a few plot holes and flaws (and to be honest, the slightest sliver of melodramatic grandstanding) I wasn't expecting.

None of which detracts from the strength of some of the ideas – like what it must feel like to be going into labour after treading on a nail sticking out of a staircase and having to give birth in a bathtub while creatures who track you by sound stalk the house around you.

We meet the Abbott family in the wake of a global disaster where creatures have descended on the earth from outer space or our nightmares (it's never explained which, to the film's credit). Supermarkets aren't quite empty but society has collapsed – the early title card shows us we're 89 days into things.

They're hiking from place to place in search of food, taking their shoes off to stalk silently into a market to collect provisions, talking to each other using sign language and with all of them trying to keep their toddler youngest member Beau quiet. When he wants a toy rocket ship but his parents Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) wisely demur, his kindly hearing impaired sister Regan (Millicent Simmons) sneaks it into his hands, figuring it can't hurt. Until she fails to see Beau swipe a pair of batteries, that is. Later down the road, Beau turns the toy on, and it's wailing sirens bring the creatures running where tragedy strikes and they swoop on the young boy, his father just out of reach.

Almost a year later the family is broken, the silence they use to communicate symptomatic and slightly metaphoric for the gulf that's opened up in between them, Regan feeling responsible for her brother's death, her father not quite able to forgive her, and with another baby on the way (the first stumbling block I came across – who the hell would have another baby in a world like that?). They live on a farm where they have an elaborate system of warnings and safeties, tending crops and taking expeditions to fish and hunt, the iron clad law of silence still very strict.

What ensues from then on is the daily battle of trying to survive with the creatures stalking the nearby woods, all with the constant drive to provision food and with a baby on the way. Far less attention was given to the script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck than Krasinski's direction in all the praise, but the rest of the movie is a very effective chain of cause and effect that doesn't blow up/devolve into a parable about the Abbotts saving the world – they just want to keep their children alive.

A burst water pipe, the errant nail, an old man in the woods who's just lost his wife to the creatures, Lee's attempt to build Regan a better cochlear implant even while still unable to tell her he loves her, a grain silo and more macguffins and obstacles conspire against the Abbotts and drive the story forward.

But you have to credit Krasinski's direction too. Whether in the script or not, there are so many well thought-out details that make the world the Abbots live in and the rules they live by both understated and obvious at the same time, like the trails of sand they lay everywhere to mask their footsteps and the aisle of the market being still full of potato chips (which are too loud for anyone to eat anymore).

After watching Krasinski in The Office I expected him to be a bit less stoic and a bit more approachable, but the role is good, even if he doesn't give himself a real lot to do. The lion's share of pain and suffering is instead visited on his real-life wife Blunt.

The sequel was inevitable after the glowing and lucrative reception to the movie, so it'll be interesting to see how Krasinski handles it, whether he can manage to make it the same but different without turning Evelyn into a rural commando or zooming out too far to take in more of the alien threat and losing focus on the family dynamic that lies at the heart of this movie.

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