Tropic Sprockets / A Quiet Place

By Ian Brockway

John Krasinki (The Office) directs a tense and arresting story titled “A
Quiet Place.” In part about the nature of sound, it is reminicent in tone
to last year’s “It Comes at Night.” Both films capture the scenario of an
apocalypse to excellent effect. Here the story is about feelings and
emotions, just as much as a monstrous external threat. From the start, the
film builds gradually. One is put directly into the situation and it is
impossible to leave.

Lee (Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) are father and mother to Regan
(Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe). The family and the few people
in the area are paralyzed in fear. It appears the aggressors are
otherworldly beasts who go into homicidal rages when they hear sounds of
any sort.

The family is forced to retreat to a basement shelter.

The minimalist tale excels in its portrayal of small details. They eat with
their hands; plates and silverware are too noisy. When the four walk
together they do it in bare feet. Metal toys are covered in cloth and rooms
are soundproofed. Communication is almost exclusively through sign
language. Husband and wife grieve due to the loss of a son.

At times the plot is reminiscent of the original version of Christian
Nyby’s “The Thing.” The father spends days at the desk trying to find some
fatal weakness that the aliens may or may not have, all the while tormented
like the scientists in the aforementioned film.

He has no answer.

Though it explicitly shows an atmosphere of claustrophobia and melancholy,
the movie has touches of poignance. In an imposed environment of near
silence, even the sound of a kiss is perilous. The couple share a dance
using earphones which play Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. The scene manages to
be sensual without so much as a single lip smack.

The scare scenes play just as perfectly. The few jump inducing moments are
spare with focus being on the family’s anxiety rather than a total
Creepshow. Blunt’s worry vividly comes through complemented by Krasinski’s
paternal calm. The frights that are visible are used more as icing on an
already rich drama. The two principal actors Krasinski and Blunt are
married in real life, but rather than being an element of sap, this is a
springboard to realism.

For the most part, Krasinski shows excellent restraint by rejecting pulp
terror. This is because mother and father are grounded in the real, thanks
in no small part to the acting of Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf.

The film smartly champions emotion over shock. While its Twilight Zone
premise might seem farfetched, it is the care of both parents that pull the
story into a satisfying orbit. There is something of Orson Welles’ “The War
of the Worlds” in this film. In its tight atmosphere, “A Quiet Place” feels
more than it reveals. In watching it, you will notice the beauty of silence
and the intimacy of sound itself: the click of a button on a shirt, the
movement of an arm, a fretful intake of breath, a sigh.

Though it delivers a few percussive jolts, “A Quiet Place” is more
memorable for the importance it places on sound which is almost poetic in
intensity. By watching and attentively listening, we experience both sound
and silence together as something human, fragile, unique and terrifying.

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