The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE CRITICS’ CHOICE -


In a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic world, cob­bled­to­gether head­lines and notes re­veal the pres­ence of an alien in­vader, one that hunts by sound. A nerve-rack­ing over­ture fol­lows a fam­ily as they tip­toe through aban­doned streets and stores in search of medicine. We soon learn that this fam­ily had some­thing of an edge on the mys­te­ri­ous crea­tures that have de­pop­u­lated the planet: the el­dest daugh­ter, Re­gan (the re­mark­able Mil­li­cent Sim­monds) is deaf. Sign lan­guage has al­lowed them to com­mu­ni­cate in their re­mote, sur­vival­ist-friendly farm, while oth­ers have per­ished. Months pass as a ter­ri­ble tragedy eats at the fam­ily, strain­ing re­la­tions be­tween fa­ther and daugh­ter in par­tic­u­lar. Their si­lence now serves pur­poses other than con­tin­u­ance. Marco Bel­trami’s low-fre­quency score warns of catas­tro­phe long be­fore it ar­rives. For a silent film, the sound de­sign can get aw­fully loud and alarm­ing. In com­mon with Trey Ed­ward Shults’s crim­i­nally over­looked and sim­i­larly themed It Comes at Night, the fam­ily’s stud­ied iso­la­tion can’t last. The film’s nail-bit­ing ten­sion makes for pleas­ing genre thrills and a con­duit for parental anx­i­ety.


A wel­come al­ter­na­tive to the mind-shred­ding din of vir­tu­ally any mod­ern ac­tion movie, A Quiet Place is an old-fash­ioned crea­ture fea­ture with a sin­gle, sim­ple hook: The crea­tures are blind, hun­gry and nav­i­gate by sound. Pos­sessed of cra­ni­ums that roll open to ex­pose a puls­ing, wet mem­brane, they’re like skit­ter­ing ear holes with pointy teeth and clat­ter­ing ap­pendages. Draw­ing from a va­ri­ety of her­itage hor­rors, in­clud­ing Alien and Preda­tor, their de­sign is fa­mil­iar yet ef­fec­tive, their ori­gin kept shrouded. Ex­trater­res­trial be­ings or man-made weapons gone rogue, they’re a mys­tery whose source the movie wisely rec­og­nizes as ir­rel­e­vant. Nei­ther in­tel­lec­tu­ally deep nor even log­i­cally sound (press any soft spot and the whole plot caves in), A Quiet Place feels at odds with a mu­si­cal score that too of­ten wants to tell us when to jump, and how high. Yet in its con­vinc­ing por­trayal of a sit­u­a­tion where a rusty nail is as lethal as an un­ex­ploded bomb, and the few re­main­ing in­hab­i­tants seem — much like the au­di­ence — more likely to die of stress than any­thing else, the movie rocks. You may go in jaded, but you’ll leave elated or I’ll eat my words.


“In as­so­ci­a­tion with Michael Bay.” Now there’s a phrase to make the heart plum­met. Luck­ily, this is a Bay movie for peo­ple who hate Michael Bay, a crea­ture-fea­ture that screws with our senses, so we can hear our­selves think. That it ex­ists at all is thanks to act­ing hus­band-and-wife John Krasin­ski and Emily Blunt. Smart, sexy, fer­tile, they’re the Be­y­oncé and Jay-Z of cinema. By ap­pear­ing, here, as a de­voted cou­ple, they zap us with their com­bined charms. They’re sell­ing a dream, but it’s a prod­uct worth buy­ing. Krasin­ski (who di­rects) is Lee Ab­bott, try­ing to pro­tect his fam­ily from blind aliens, who sniff out noise like white sharks sniff out blood. When si­lence breaks, hell is let loose. View­ers who are preg­nant and/or feel­ing frag­ile should maybe don an eye-mask for two key scenes. The cin­e­matog­ra­phy by Char­lotte Bruus Chris­tensen is re­fresh­ingly un­glossy. The “mu­sic” is in­trigu­ing. A foetal pulse, one of a num­ber of off-the-radar rhythms, sounds as trippy as a chill-out dance track. As for its pol­i­tics, A Quiet Place has def­i­nitely been in­flu­enced by Mad Max: Fury Road. Guns save the day, heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and dif­fer­ence isn’t some­thing that needs to be “fixed”.


As a direc­tor and an ac­tor, John Krasin­ski should be ap­plauded for know­ing the power of a close-up on a face. Maybe that’s thanks to his years on NBC’s The Of­fice as the sar­donic ev­ery­man Jim, who would mug into the cam­era ev­ery chance he got. The spec­tre of a long-run­ning TV role like that is dif­fi­cult to out­run no mat­ter how tal­ented you are; with A Quiet Place, Krasin­ski is all but sprint­ing. He di­rected, co-wrote, and stars in this ef­fec­tive bit of nerve-jan­gling hor­ror, which is told al­most en­tirely with­out di­a­logue. In­stead, we get faces—some­times af­fec­tion­ate, usu­ally stricken, of­ten look­ing right at the cam­era. A Quiet Place isa sus­pense­ful drama about a house­hold ex­ist­ing un­der the most dire kind of threat. Krasin­ski smartly re­al­izes that such a story should be largely told in close-up, to em­pha­size not only the fear of the sit­u­a­tion, but also the in­ti­mate bonds keep­ing this unit to­gether. Ev­ery mi­croex­pres­sion—a wrin­kled fore­head, a dart­ing glance—mat­ters when peo­ple aren’t able to speak aloud to each other. A Quiet Place is a taut piece of genre film­mak­ing, to be sure, though it suc­ceeds be­cause it leads with a be­liev­able, if height­ened, por­trayal of a lov­ing fam­ily.

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