Emily Blunt

A Quiet Place

09/04/18

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.

Just saying.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

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The Girl on the Train

10/10/16

The Girl on the Train‘s transition from page to screen was inevitable: Paula Hawkins’ novel has been a huge hit, its popularity earning its author over ten million dollars, and pretty much guaranteeing that this film adaptation will attract a large audience.

It’s a thriller, of sorts, unpicking the tangled lives of three women. Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a tragic figure, an alcoholic, obsessed with her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), and the baby she never had. Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) is Tom’s new wife, and Megan (Haley Bennett), is a neighbour who works as Tom and Anna’s nanny  (yes, they do have a baby) and seems to have the perfect life – at least, as far as Rachel can tell from what she glimpses from the train. Let’s be honest, the story stretches credulity at times, and it’s kind of irritating that the women are all defined by their motherhood – or lack thereof. It verges on the histrionic in places, and there are moments where it lacks pace or drive. But, where it works, it does work well.

There’s a change of location: we’re in New York instead of London, but this isn’t detrimental to the film. In fact, the cinematography is lovely; the contrasts between the urban mayhem and the glassy smoothness of the lake help add a layer of eeriness and tension to the piece. And the shift is only geographical: the social and sexual mores of affluent white suburbanites seem similar in both locales.

Emily Blunt in particular deserves some accolades: she absolutely convinces as the drunken, broken Rachel, desperately searching for a way back to herself. And there’s a stellar supporting cast, including the ever fabulous Allison Janney and the ‘why-doesn’t-she-do-more?’ Lisa Kudrow.

Overall, then, it’s kind of… okay. There’s a soggy middle section where your mind might wander, but you’ll be pulled back in for the rather racier (if somewhat predictable) ending.

If you liked the book, you’ll probably like this.

3.8 stars

Susan Singfield

Sicario

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16/010/15

‘Cancel that holiday in Mexico!’

That would seem to be the overriding message of Denis Villeneauve’s white-knuckle ride of a thriller in which FBI operative, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) finds herself mixed up in the violent world of the Mexican drug cartels. Assigned to work alongside Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro, looking increasingly like Brad Pitt’s Puerto Rican twin) she starts off with high hopes and good intentions, as the team work their way towards the Mister Big who is responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent people; but she soon discovers that, in this shady operation, the good guys are pretty much indistinguishable from the bad ones.

Blunt, of course, cut her action chops on the seriously underrated Edge of Tomorrow and she’s on excellent form here – but it must be said, that Taylor Sheridan’s script is incredibly misogynistic. Poor Kate is beaten, throttled and crushed at every opportunity and as the one character in the film with any apparent sense of decency, the film’s bleak conclusion seems to bray the fact that women should keep their nibs out and leave the rough stuff to the big boys. And wouldn’t it be nice if, just for once, a character’s motivations weren’t based around his desire to revenge himself on the man who killed his wife and daughter?

This is a shame, because in most other respects the film works brilliantly – there are tense shootouts aplenty, gripping covert operations and a nightmarish vision of Juarez that certainly won’t make it into the holiday brochures. But when the film’s central character is a strong woman, trying to stand tall in a male-dominated environment, her eventual failure to do so  does seem suspiciously like a missed opportunity.

3.8 stars

Philip Caveney