It’s hard in this day and age to come up with a completely original idea for a film, but writer/director John Krasinski has certainly engineered a refreshing twist on a much-used idea with A Quiet Place.
The action takes place in an alternative America, one that has been overrun – not by zombies, or a raging epidemic – but by predatory alien creatures. And yes, I’ll grant you, this still doesn’t sound like something you haven’t already seen many times before. The creatures are never named and we are given no information about where they came from or how they rose to power. This is entirely deliberate and I love the fact that the filmmakers judge us capable of joining the dots on this. The aliens are completely blind and apparently have no sense of smell, but what they do have is highly developed hearing. Which means that, if you’re hoping to stay alive in this world, everything must be done in absolute silence. And I mean everything.
In the film’s powerful opening, we meet the Abbott family, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), her husband, Lee (Krasinski), and their three children, one of whom, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), is completely deaf and therefore has even more worries than the others, since she isn’t always aware when she’s actually making a noise. The family have ventured out of their remote house in search of medical supplies. We learn very quickly how complex this new world is. The family go everywhere barefoot, walking along trails of pre-laid sand, because even the sound of a breaking twig can spell doom for them. They have developed their own sign-language, their own way of doing ordinary household duties. And, as they quickly learn to their cost, battery-powered toys are not a good thing to pick up on their travels.
From this point, the film moves on in time. Evelyn is now pregnant. And of course, giving birth to a child really isn’t the quietest process in the world…
What we’re watching here, is, to all intents and purposes, a silent movie – and, as the film leaps nimbly from one incredibly tense sequence to the next, it’s this very quality that allows Krasinki to wrack the tension up to almost unbearable levels. And that’s what feels so fresh about this idea, so effective. This, by the way, is definitely a film to be watched with an audience. It won’t be anything like as suspenseful when you’re sitting at home, with the option of breaking for a coffee whenever things become a bit too stressful. In a cinema, there’s a palpable tension as the audience suffers in collective silence along with the Abbots – particularly with Evelyn, who goes through several levels of personal hell in this.
A word of warning. Don’t be the person gleefully chomping your way through a big tub of popcorn as the drama unfolds – not unless you want to be the most hated person in the cinema. My phone, which was switched to ‘vibrate only,’ went off in the middle of this and managed to sound to my startled ears like an express train thundering through an abandoned station.
A Quiet Place is, in many ways, a small film – a tiny cast, a couple of locations and a relatively short running time, which seems to positively sprint by – but it leaves a powerful impression. Hear that noise as you leave the cinema? It’s the sound of the entire audience letting out a breath of relief.
This is highly recommended viewing – and it’s quietly feminist too – though possibly not the ideal film to watch if you happen to be pregnant.