If you’ve ever watched the Academy Awards and used the presentation of the Sound Editing award (yawn) as an excuse to grab another bag of chips from the cupboard, A Quiet Place will make you rethink everything. Director (and actor, writer, and executive producer) John Krasinski’s cracker-jack suspense film is a virtuoso study in the use of sound (or lack thereof). There may be a total of twenty words spoken in the entire film, but A Quiet Place gives new meaning to the idea of a picture being worth a thousand words. There’s so much going on that it’s damn near impossible to catch your breath during the film’s 90-minute runtime.
The premise is not only ingenious but simple—some years ago a horde of nasty alien monsters showed up on Earth and, being blind, they hunt purely by sound, eviscerating anything that makes even the slightest noise. Ready? Survive.
When the curtain opens, the world is a desolate dystopia, and a family is tiptoeing through a vacated convenience store gathering supplies. Mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and dad Lee (Krasinski, Blunt’s real-life husband) have clearly adapted to their silent existence and have trained their three kids on how to get things done without making a peep. They go about their days in absolute silence, using sign language to communicate and taking clever, often absurdly intricate steps to eke out their existence in complete quiet.
Complicating things is the fact that mom is revealed to be pregnant, and, as every parent can testify, infants are not known for their ability to remain noiseless. Also in play is their deaf teenage daughter Regan (hearing-impaired actress Millicent Simmonds), who not only can’t hear a monster standing right behind her but is also unable to figure out where to avoid placing her foot on the creaky floorboards.
Eventually, and at the worst possible time, Evelyn’s water breaks. And then the contractions start. “The bathtub scene”, as it will soon become famously known, is a absolute, jaw-dropping showcase for not only Blunt’s phenomenal talents as an actress but also for Krasinski’s now readily apparent flair for direction. A Quiet Place is his third feature, but the first two (Brief Interviews with Hideous Men andThe Hollars) largely went under the radar. It’s safe to say he’s under the radar no more. Also clearly worthy of high praise is supervising sound editor Erik Aadahl, who worked on the entire Transformers oeuvre and now must be suffering from some severe whiplash after having to take things from that extreme to absolute silence here.
There is no shortage of questions that will pop into your mind as you watch the film: how does the family have electricity? How long have the monsters been here? Where did they originate? How many people are left in the world? But as the film unfolds, it becomes clear that none of it matters. What’s important is the singular (and yes, tragic) struggle this family goes through every day. And the brilliance of A Quiet Place is how Krasinski lets it all unfold. There isn’t a wasted moment, a throw-away bit, or anything that seems the least bit out of place. Every single moment is fraught with live-wire electricity and impending doom.
Back in 1979 Alien arrived in theaters with the now-famous tagline, “In space no one can hear you scream.” A Quiet Place presents us with a terrifying take on the exact opposite—even the slightest whisper can get you killed.