John Krasinski has had a rather unusual career path so far. He made his name as Jim Halpert on the American version of the sitcom The Office. However, movie stardom has just eluded the likeable face from one of the most popular sitcoms of recent memory. (Losing out on Captain America to Chris Evans certainly didn’t help.) After two divisive attempts at directing, John Krasinski is poised for his first breakout hit with A Quiet Place, a sharp piece of horror filmmaking that grabs your attention and never relents.
Humanity has been decimated. Society has collapsed. In the aftermath of an invasion of mysterious creatures, a family of four lives in secluded silence on a wooded farm house. What are these creatures after? Nobody knows. How can they be stopped? Nobody knows. But these creatures are blind and only respond to sound, so the entire family must live each and every day in silence and can only communicate through sign language. The family’s patriarch, Lee (Krasinski), attempts to study for a solution to a problem that has killed countless, but Lee must also tend to the needs of his family and ensure their survival. Complicating matters, Lee’s wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is pregnant. Their two children are going through struggles of their own, with the son Marcus (Noah Jupe) having a hard time accepting the responsibilities bestowed upon him and their deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) expressing a level of angst towards her father. All it takes is one misstep to cause a bit of noise and bringing these devilish creatures coming for blood.
With very little dialogue, the communication between characters in A Quiet Place happens mainly between subtitled sign language. That means there’s little to no expository dialogue. It’s a wise decision by Krasinki and his co-writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. The why of what is happening in the film is of little importance compared to what is happening to these characters. The only aspect of A Quiet Place that I struggle to understand is why anyone would be bringing a baby into a world where any kind of sound is an instant death sentence. Regardless of why anyone would do such a thing, it’s an aspect of the story that is mined for numerous moments of pulse-pounding tension. With limited setting and limited characters, Krasinski forges plenty of drama between the family to complicate the tension with the creatures lurking on the outside.
Amplifying the tension that Krasinski crafts with camera is the amazing sound design of A Quiet Place. Here is a movie where every sound is life or death, and you feel every footstep, every slight creak in the wood. Granted, A Quiet Place often is quite heavy on the jump scares with a loud noise breaking the quiet tension, but these don’t grow tedious because Krasinski and his collaborators have clearly established the threat that is driving the action. I’m not one to focus on a work’s awards potential, but there’s going to be something wrong if A Quiet Place isn’t nominated in the sound categories come next year.
A Quiet Place isn’t all just family drama and jumpy moments caused by unseen creatures. Krasinski gives ample looks at these murderous creatures and the creature design is quite impressive. It’s a different kind of creature and for me to explain its workings in detail would constitute a bit of a spoiler. And the amount of raw tension that Krasinski crafts while letting the audience get a good look at the creature is a testament to the filmmaking skills on display. The other area where Krasinski excels is in the casting department, casting the great Emily Blunt opposite himself and filling two crucial roles with the up and coming young stars Noah Jupe, one of the few good things about last year’s Suburbicon, and Millicent Simmonds from last year’s wonderful and underseen Wonderstruck.
Because of the importance that sound plays in A Quiet Place, I’m seriously recommending that you find the quietest possible movie snacks to indulge in because anything that creates even the faintest sound will be noticeable throughout the theater. That’s truly a testament to how well-crafted A Quiet Place is in its visceral tension and horrifying sound design that even a slight crackle of wrapper could make you the target of your fellow moviegoers. It’ll be fascinating to see where Krasinski goes as a filmmaker after this film with its intense family drama layered upon intense claustrophobic horror. A Quiet Place is one of the year’s stand out genre films. It’s pulse-pounding. It’s intense. It’s a hell of a movie.