A family that eats together stays together. But what of a family that eats together but is forced to crunch and masticate in silence, as if their lives depended on it? In actor-director John Krasinski‘s A Quiet Place, they literally do. Based on a story by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, and written for the screen by them with Krasinski, the movie has a dystopian look at a future not far away, and the Abbott family’s desperate struggle to stay alive in the boondocks. For, they seem to be the only surviving folks from their town, and a nail-biting opening sequence that echoes with the sounds of muffled silence in a shop sets the tone for what’s to come.
And you wait breathless as an ordinary visit to the shop is actually a tremulous experience, and the first sounds of cinema come alive via an equally unnerving score by Marco Beltrami after a good couple of minutes. The family cannot speak or make any sound that’ll attract the blind but ultrasound sensitive creatures that are all around them, making them fleeting, disconcerting chow. The beauty of A Quiet Place lies in this premise and yet, how there’s so much of moving drama that’s interwoven into the horror and breathtaking fear that’s almost unrelenting in its entire 90-minute run. The director uses all the machinations of horror movies, and yet gives it all a new fiendish twist, because there’s so much of caring and sharing that’s going on – the constant, pin-drop silent struggle to convey love, emotions, and everyday familial angst – that we take so much granted – where just an ordinary crash of crockery could mean the end of shelf-life.
Contributing to this non-stop pulse-pounding enterprise is the super sound design – Michael Barosky, sound mixer, Justin M. Davey, sound effects editor, Peter Persaud, foley recordist, Brandon Proctor, re-recording mixer, and team, take a silent, hushed bow. There’s so much that you can hear when the world around you is silent, and that’s when the playful roll of a dice, the creaking sound of a wood board, or the steady trickle of overflowing water sounds even more ominous that it actually is. That the jumps and the fear lurk not in the sudden appearance of a monster or a screaming maniac with a saw but in the tip-toeing of characters around the screen is what adds fearful beauty to this genre. And you know it’s working because you care for the family – unlike in other horror slashers where you await with devious anticipation for the first kill, here you want the characters to hush down and not make a sound – don’t, for critters’ sake, don’t invoke the monsters, you scream silently.
Adding to the sound dimension of abnormal breathing rhythm in the cinema hall is the approaching-ominous score by Beltrami that’s never quite relaxed, except in the movie’s most tender moments, when the composer allows the piano to soak in some love and the violins to sigh – but only just. And the score’s in sync with the sound design, so it never feels like it’s stepping on the toes of silence.
The cast is first-rate – real-life couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are superb in this soundless symphony of family fear, both exuding parental strength and anxieties oh so well. Note Blunt teaching arithmetic to her son Marcus, and when she mimes an old lady, it’s as if she magically, actually, turns geriatric. Krasinski is as good in the direction department, using angles to make you jump, or using long shots to convey the tensile family stress and strain, as in where the father and son walk off in one direction, the daughter Regan in another, and the mother’s looking at all of them, the camera looking at all of them.
The child actors – Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe – are outstanding, both of them displaying such magnificent range and vulnerability, and then suddenly maturing beyond their years as the situation rapidly unravels.
The movie also works because it viscerally brings to the surface a question that gnaws all of us constantly when it comes to our loved ones. (Transpose that to our currently equally dystopian times of blood-curdling crimes against children and women and the full import hits you.) As Emily Blunt’s Evelyn asks Krasinski’s Lee about their children, “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” Somewhere in A Quiet Place‘s quiet, symphonic moments and movements lies the heartbreakingly terrifying answer.
A Quiet Place is rated A (Restricted to adults)) There’s some bloody images, but it’s the terror that’s unbearable.
A Quiet Place
Director John Krasinski Running Time 1h 30 min
Writers Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
Stars John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe Genres Drama, Horror, Sc-Fi
Watch the trailer of A Quiet Place here: