Just How Good is "A Quiet Place"?
by: Jonah Reilly
As soon as news about a mostly-silent horror film, “A Quiet Place”, being released, starring, directed and written by John Krasinski alongside his real-life wife Emily Blunt, social media was abuzz. Nervous eagerness was on everyone’s lips. People were anxiously awaiting the seemingly thrilling film with such an intriguing concept, starring a widely adored celeb couple. However, with such an ambitious conception as the writing-directing debut of Jim from The Office, everyone was asking, "Will it be delightful, or disastrous?" As well as, "How do they fart?" The first half of this review will be spoiler-free, and there will be a spoiler warning halfway through.
“A Quiet Place” is a prime example of doing everything right, while being plagued with the flimsiest of story-lines. Shortly, “A Quiet Place” nails everything. The acting, of course, is chilling to the bone, as to be expected from Emily Blunt. Honestly, though, I’ve seen Blunt’s most superior, artistic, Oscar-bait work. “Sicario”, “The Girl on the Train”, “Into the Woods”, etc. Of course, she’s amazing in the hoity-toity, pinkies-up films she stars in. Yet, I am always the most impressed with her in the films simply meant to entertain, that stray from any whisper of Oscar buzz. Her performances in this, “The Devil Wears Prada”, and “The Edge of Tomorrow” clearly aren’t meant to hold a candle to “Young Victoria”, and yet I am massively more impressed with The Redhead Receptionist over The Baker’s Wife. This film is some of her best work. Also, the use of an actual deaf actor for the daughter role is commendable, and an excellent decision.
A quick word about representation. Millicent Simmonds, the deaf actor in question, does an amazing job as Regan. She, obviously, has an authenticity that would never be harnessed by an actor who wasn’t deaf. Also, she simply does a great job as the troubled daughter role. She understands the character on an incredibly deep level, and harnesses the emotion involved perfectly.
The technical aspects are just as amazing as Blunt’s performance. The cinematography is adequate enough to carry the story, the dialogue-less script is impressive and masterfully intense. I have no words for how impressed I was with the editing.
(Quick interruption: Major SPOILER WARNING for the rest of the article. It’s impossible to fully explain this film’s qualities without getting into specifics.)
The editing of Blunt’s character in the bathtub, giving birth with a nail-puncture through her foot, while aliens creep around the corner, cleverly spliced with diversion fireworks splitting into brilliant explosions outside is the epitome of excellent cinematic storytelling. The atmosphere thus far has been perfectly established, which is the sole reason this film is as effective as it is, especially this scene. The intensity builds as the sound-hunting blind aliens turn the corner to pursue the tormented Evelyn, as she desperately smothers her screams. As more whimpers escape her, the monsters get closer. Film-goers watching this become aware that their fingernails are dug into whatever is closest to them, their rears planted firmly on the edge of their seat. After becoming attached these characters and aware of the stakes of this world, which can only be done by masterful writing and direction, the potency of this scene is absolutely terrifying. Finally, as Evelyn can no longer contain her screams, the long-awaited fireworks explode. The footage is spliced together in such a way that her screams give way to the booming pops of the fireworks. All together, I melted in my seat in pure awe of the excellent film-making that I was observing. That one scene was just a fresh reminder of everything I adore about cinema.
However, there are flaws with the film. Namely, the story. The story is encapsulating and interesting, but it is extremely ill-explained. Firstly, why in the world did a couple get pregnant in a world where there are monsters that hunt sound? Of course it’s an option that it was an accident, and the family wasn’t down for the other option in this scenario, but it seems like given their circumstances, if they really wanted to do the deed so bad, contraception would’ve been an extreme priority. Why would they want to go through the mess of giving birth in their world? Also, why would they want another mouth to feed? Sure, they came up with a plan to take care of things when she actually went into labor, but did they forget they’re dealing with a human baby? Babies cry, scream, giggle, audibly poop, etc. Try sitting an infant down and explaining to them that they have to remain silent because sound-hunting blind aliens will attack and kill them at the slightest decibel of sound. Also, I’m sorry, but you can not convince me that mattresses are the key to sound-proofing.
The dynamics between the father and daughter are intriguing. The message of family being portrayed by the symbolism of reverting back to nuclear-family standards in the face of post-apocalypse is one of the film’s best defining themes, and something I found refreshingly smart. However, it does bring up pores in the story. The reason why the father, Lee, wouldn’t let Regan down into his radio-signal wonderland is never quite explained. Mostly because Lee gave his best Whitney Houston impression and ended up in the digestive tract of a monster with an ear for a face. (A death scene which was INCREDIBLY avoidable, by the way. Making Regan too dumb to put two and two together about the feedback and the monsters fleeing was a huge writing issue. Character simple-mindedness is not an excuse.) There are possibilities that it was to avoid feedback that would hurt Regan, or because he didn’t want Regan to be exposed to just how terrible the world conditions were. Which is dumb, because why wouldn’t he just tell Regan she’d get blasted if she walked downstairs? That way, she could just click the thing off and there would be no need for a tantrum. If he didn’t want her exposed to the worldly conditions, I’m pretty sure the cat was let out of the bag when she looked outside for 0.2 seconds.
In closing, “A Quiet Place” is an overall great film, but not without its flaws. It has superior technical aspects, and immensely effective elements. For a writing-directing debut, it’s masterful, despite a flawed plot-line.