‘A Quiet Place’ is a menacing masterpiece (Movie review)

Nothing in John Krasinski’s past would indicate that he had a film like “A Quiet Place” in him, and yet here we are. The onetime sitcom heartthrob has delivered a film that is not just frightening, but intimate and character driven. Sitting in the theater I was reminded of films like “The Descent” and “The Mist,” which similarly play on audience sympathies to up the scare factor by giving us characters we care about.

From the first frame, “A Quiet Place” strikes an eerie, ominous tone. A family trip to a supermarket in shambles is a masterful example of the gradual ratcheting of tension. The opening also does a fantastic job of quickly laying a framework for the world and the family, and it does it all in shorthand. We have a firm understanding of who these people are before the title card comes up.

After that opening scene, before things get crazy, the film takes its time with these people, exploring them and their world. In doing this, it invites the audience to invest in them, and that investment pays off in tightly grasped armrests when director and co-writer Krasinski fully unsheathes the malevolence of the film’s creatures.

While dialogue in the film is scarce, sound is vitally important, and it is used expertly here. I’ve never had a passionate opinion about sound editing and mixing going into previous Oscar seasons, but I will for the next Oscars, because each crack of a branch, creak of a door or buzz of a light here is designed to play audience fears like an orchestra.

Krasinski also wisely opts for the Spielberg method of showing off his monsters, which is to say he doesn’t. Much like in “Jaws,” the aliens in this film, which have no sense of sight or smell and can only detect prey via sound, spend most of their time off camera. When they are seen, up until the end of the film, it is piecemeal, allowing the audience to build the most horrifying thing they can imagine in their own heads.

“A Quiet Place” promotional image

He also decides to keep the origins of the aliens for the most part unexplained, which helps to put the audience in the mindset of the characters, who are seen to be constantly seeking out any intel they can find on the beasts.

There are a few minor gripes to be had with the film. A scene at a waterfall doesn’t seem completely necessary, and a pregnancy subplot involving Emily Blunt’s character made me ask myself more than once why anyone would want to bring a screaming infant into this nightmare world. But those are minor quibbles.

Beyond the stellar craftsmanship, the film is wonderfully acted. Krasinski brings a sad but determined energy to his character. Blunt is sympathetic, and the child actors are both great, especially Millicent Simmonds, who deftly handles the most dramatically demanding role in the film with aplomb.

“A Quiet Place” is a fantastically menacing horror achievement, a nasty bit of business with a warm heart at its core. It is deserving of the praise it has received, and it lives up to the hype. I’ve never been a big fan of Krasinski, but I can’t wait to see what he does next now, and nobody is more surprised than me to hear me say that.

One Reply to “‘A Quiet Place’ is a menacing masterpiece (Movie review)”

  1. Great review Michael, I’ve been waiting to hear your thoughts. I also give this movie a solid 4.5/5 stars as it is near perfect. In saying that, in response to your minor complaints, I have a few comments:
    *Potential light SPOILER ALERT*
    The Waterfall scene – I actually didn’t feel this was unnecessary at all. The film is so much about family that I felt it was a good way to show dad/son bonding time, and even a little fun, while at the same time we are able to see the child learning an important lesson (while foreshadowing a bit) about how a louder sound can mask a quieter sound. We find out soon after that this is very important. Could we have gone w/o it? I suppose, but I never really considered it out of place..
    Pregnancy – Now this one is hard to disagree with, and I’ve actually thought about it quite a bit. First, I’m not sure you could call this a subplot can you? I mean, a majority of the movie centers around preparing and going through the ordeal. Anyway.. after seeing the trailer for the movie, a friend of mine’s first comment was “why would you have a baby?”. So aside from just saying “it’s a movie, just go with it”, I looked for a logical reason. Honestly, I think the whole thing could have been better if they were on say day 220 instead of 450+.. which would have meant that she was pregnant before the incident brought the creatures. But.. being as that is not the case, there are two reasons I could be happy with.
    1) Accidents happen. Without getting into the uncessary details.. I imagine that “relations” in a post apocolyptic world are a bit different. I’m sure the last thing on their mind’s was to use protection, or to remember to taker her birth control. Then, after finding out about it… I imagine the local Planned Parenthood office was probably not in service. So overall, “oops” is probably a good enough reason for me.
    2) The second reason I could understand, and this is more from a script/film writing point of view, is just again about the importance of family that this movie focuses on. Without giving major spoilers away, after the opening scene, it is clear that the family has dealt with crisis and will forever, maybe their way to cope with it is to continue building their family? Shows like The Walking Dead and others have dealt with the topic of children in post apacolypic worlds and their reasoning is always because you can’t give up all hope, and must carry on as best they can. I think that is probably what the writers intended here… and I can live with that as well. Even if I think its crazy to consider.
    All in all, great review of a great film. Glad to have some commentary with someone who has seen it.

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