‘A Quiet Place’

“A Quiet Place” has quite the foreign policy for its foreign invaders: “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”

The only “TR” in “A Quiet Place” though is that it’s incredibly taut and continuously rousing.

“A Quiet Place” chronicles the soundless lives of a family in rural wherever, trying to survive the arachnoid extraterrestrials that prey on noise. It’s a short, simple film, one that follows the “Mad Max: Fury Road” formula: It knows what it is, it won’t try to be disingenuously deep, and it will be an unrelenting drive from start to finish.

Indeed, in its opening act, “A Quiet Place” shows the unexpected extent to which none will be spared for the sake of its scares. Director John Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt star as the parents of three, and a fourth to be, going about their daily lives in the most audibly absent ways possible: treading around in their bare feet, walking to town on a sand-strewn path, and speaking through sign.

Thematically, “A Quiet Place” is less “Exorcist” horror and more “Signs” surprise. Visually, it’s also reminiscent of the latter. Much of the movie is silent, with its score sprinkled throughout, becoming more of a constant toward its conclusion. The best parts of “A Quiet Place” are when it’s precisely that: quiet. Music is muted, dialogue is replaced with the experiencing of one child’s deafness, and yet the crescendo of creepiness keeps pounding.

If only that unconventionality would’ve accompanied the entire film. As a result, “A Quiet Place” doesn’t quite posit a classic status. A scoreless outing likely would’ve cemented that—for it’s the scenes of silence that are really the most immersive, when we feel the most connected to the characters. After all, how often does a symphony soundtrack our own lives?

As it is, “A Quiet Place” is more cinematically safe. And that’s not a criticism. But with such a sound structure and, in particular, a father-focused storyline, “A Quiet Place” is, what Twitter “movie lover” David Franklin correctly calls, “so Spielberg-y” that it makes you “[wonder] what he would have done with this script.”

My suspicion: Spielberg would’ve added 40 minutes and elaborated on, or just removed entirely, the brief backstory that Krasinski somewhat clumsily crammed into his character’s basement base of operations. I’m referring to a whiteboard that expounds on the ETs’ existence in a way that caters only to the unimaginative. Spielberg also would’ve added some senior sidekick to the story, including his own (composer John Williams), neither of which are needed. Again, if only Krasinski would’ve resisted the urge to score the thing at all.

Still, for being his first mainstream movie, Krasinski has crafted a thrilling, albeit traditional, picture that requires viewers to do something all too rare in today’s theaters: Shut up and pay attention, all the way to the last shot.

4 out of 5

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