Deliciously coiled tension arrives briskly and often in "A Quiet Place," a near-silent thriller with a humdinger conceit: its characters cannot make a sound louder than a hushed whisper lest they wish to fall prey to a host of aurally sensitive creatures who have taken over the world. For writer-director John Krasinski (2016's "The Hollars") and co-scribes Bryan Woods & Scott Beck, this is an artful exercise in using their story's limitations to their benefit. When making any noise at all can spell doom, the viewer's apprehension over every footstep is elevated even when the narrative itself is paced deliberately. Also impressive is how well the setup is established and ensuing situations portrayed without the need for spoken exposition. It's rather nice not being bombarded with people onscreen constantly explaining what's going on to the audience.
It has been over a year since they made their presences known on Earth, and in that time the population has seemingly dwindled to the fittest. For married couple Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe), a grave loss within their unit has both shaken them and reiterated how crucial it is that they always remain quieter than the natural sounds around them. Evelyn is coming up on the end of her pregnancy, but this usually joyous time is overshadowed by a cold, hard truth: the coos and cries of a baby could spell outright disaster for their survival.
A family who find their planetand, more personally, their farminvaded by alien beings. A central protagonist racked with guilt over a tragedy which claimed the life of his or her own. A climactic deus ex machina that may hold the key to the creatures' weakness. Whether intentional or not, "A Quiet Place" intermittently unspools like a loose remake of M. Night Shyamalan's scary, heartrending 2002 triumph "Signs
." If one can guess rather early on where things are headed, it is impossible to anticipate the level of high-wire craftsmanship Krasinski displays. The creaks of floorboards; the accidental knocking-over of objects; a sharp nail protruding vertically from a basement stairall of the above build suspense, ratchet audience stress, and have the power to startle when silence is a golden necessity. The aural complexity of the picture's sound design should not be underestimated, each heard movement amplified by its potentially fatal consequence.
An actor's face has the power to speak louder than his or her words, an axiom supported by the sterling work of the four lead actors here. John Krasinski (2015's "Aloha
") and Emily Blunt (2016's "The Girl on the Train
") are steadfast yet fallible forces as Lee and Evelyn, a couple who have endured heartache and want nothing more than to protect their children. They also realistically know they may not always be around, and so it goes that Lee takes reluctant son Marcus out on fishing expeditions while insisting deaf daughter Regan stay behind with her mom. Regan sees his curious denial as a way of punishing her for a harrowing past event for which she already blames herself. Whether this is true or not of Lee, he does love hera sentiment Marcus suggests to his dad the dejected Regan needs to hear. Millicent Simmonds (2017's "Wonderstruck"), deaf in real life, brings an aching, unforced poignancy to Regan, while Noah Jupe (2017's "Wonder") affectingly expresses the raw fear and capacity for bravery of a young boy trapped in a nightmarish waking scenario.
"A Quiet Place" is an intimate tale of familial devotion and survival amidst the suggestion of worldwide decimation. A few more occasions early on of the different family members interactingspecifically mother/daughter Evelyn and Regancould have only deepened their relationships and bonds. When time is taken for lovely quiet moments that prove louder than much of the action, as when Lee and Evelyn share earbuds and dance to Neil Young's quixotic "Harvest Moon," the weight of all they've had to endure read in their silent synergy, it goes a long way in building up an otherwise slim study in minimalistic storytelling. The unnerving terror threatening to boil to the surface at any moment is where the film most excels. Indelible suspense and dread abound, a cellar-set game of cat-and-mouse and a fall into a suffocating silo of grain enough to warrant widespread armrest-clenching. Watching "A Quiet Place," one doesn't dare make a peep, the intoxication of its premise spilling off the screen. Even when it's heading toward inevitable beats the viewer is privy to before the characters, the film works like gangbusters as a crafty, well-oiled conduit of fright.