The opening of of A Quiet Place leaves you primed for an arthouse-inflected genre film, like something A24 would release, or that Alex Garland might direct. Shot with moody lighting and Malick-y closeups, a family silently raid an abandoned pharmacy, on what we’re informed is “Day 82” of something. All the actors sign their dialogue, and their big round eyes cringe at the slightest sound. But just as you start to worry that the whole film might be like this, all somber and serious, a little kid gets eaten by a big monster that looks like a wingless bat with a basketball-head full of teeth.
Refreshingly unreconstructed, and it rips with a crowd.
The world, we learn, has been invaded and decimated by these creatures, which reflexively kill anything that makes a noise. The very nice family of Lee (John Krasinski, who also co-wrote and directed), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), and their two children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) try to survive by never ever making a sound. It’s a killer premise that seems ripe for something overtly stylized or weighed down by some stupid metaphor. But Krasinski has the common decency to mostly chase after crowd-pleasing cheap thrills. The film is loaded with goofy jump scares (look out for those raccoons) and heavily telegraphed setup-and-release gags (rusty nail in the stairs, uh-oh), all of them satisfying, and it’s all peppered with a lot of nuts-and-bolts detail about just how the characters navigate their situation. (Wait till you see how they plan to deal with a crying infant.)
The two or three big set-pieces are executed with a smirking kind of glee if not a ton of formal control, and a little more patience with the geography might have been beneficial, but most audiences won’t notice or care, and the cast does a lot of heavy lifting. In total contrast to tonier genre stuff that strains for seriousness, A Quiet Place is refreshingly unreconstructed, and it rips with a crowd.