Movie Review: “A Quiet Place”
No one knows where these aliens came from, but they are extremely violent, have armored skin, and hunt anything that makes a sound. Just months after the aliens arrived, humanity is mostly wiped out. There is no way of knowing how many of the aliens are out there, but survivors have realized that only way to survive is to survive quietly. Those who have survived this long have done so by mastering the skill of living silently, but the slightest mistake could prove to be fatal.
Evelyn and Lee Abbott (Emily Blunt and John Krasinski) have adapted to the challenge of having to live silently but they have the added challenge of trying to raise three young children in this new world. They have two young boys and their oldest is their daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who has the added challenge of being deaf and unaware of any sound that she makes. This family has seen its share of tragedies, but they have found a way to survive. However, when Evelyn becomes pregnant, the family must prepare for an inevitably loud labor and must find a way to raise the baby quietly.
The Pros & Cons
John Krasinski & Emily Blunt (+10pts)
Plot Devices (-3pts)
Family & The Monsters (+6pts)
The Weakness (-3pts)
Pro: John Krasinski & Emily Blunt (+10pts)
Both of these great actors brought their A-games for this movie. Given the premise, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt had to convey their characters‘ thoughts and emotions without using words. Sure, the characters use a lot of sign language, but it was their facial expressions that made the movie so effective. They convey their characters‘ emotions to the audience without using the spoken word, and they do so without boring the audience.
The two were fantastic in the movie and seemed unphased by the challenge of depicting their characters without using sound. I imagine it was a learned skill but they did it incredibly well. These characters had an incredible amount of fear and desperation but they needed to maintain their composure for their children. These were simple, but layered characters that these two talented actors were able to effectively portray, despite the the obvious challenge. This is made more impressive by the fact that were able to captivate the audience while doing so. They have both proven themselves as talented performers but their performances in A Quiet Place were compelling and impressive.
Con: Plot Devices (-3pts)
It is always a bit of a bummer when a movie has a great premise, but is filled with plot device after plot device. A lot of the events of the movie are convenient. They are not convenient for the characters of the story, but they are convenient for the writers of the film. Whenever this movie begins to hit a slow point, or whenever things are going well for the characters, something incredibly “coincidental“ happens that mixes everything up and moves the plot in the filmmaker’s desired direction.
Do not get me wrong, coincidence is not without its place in movies. Coincidences happen in the real world so they should be allowed to happen in movies and they can be effective in making a movie feel fresh or unpredictable. However, when they happen one after another, it begins to feel like lazy writing. Movie goers will not be all together put off by all these plot devices, but they were abundant and obvious enough to be worth noting.
Pro: Sound (+10pts)
Sound (or the absence of it) was used magnificently in this movie. There are long periods of time in which this movie is silent, and it really gives the audience a feel for how quiet these characters have to be in order to survive. Additionally, the silence gives the audience an appreciation for how difficult it is to live quietly. We make noise and are not exactly a quiet species, especially in our modern society.
These characters cannot speak, laugh, scream, step on something that makes noise, or draw attention to themselves in any sound-related way. This is so effective because a lot of the movie is silent and all you can hear is other audience members (or perhaps they are hearing you). Knowing how easily you can hear someone in the back row, you get a good appreciation of how silent the characters must be in order to hide from the monsters with super-sensitive hearing. The silence is captivating and is made extremely intense when a monster is nearby. This movie uses sound as a gimmick and it does so masterfully. The intensity that lies in the silence is chilling and will have audiences glued to the edge of their seats while trying not to make a sound.
Con: Regan (-4pts)
I know I have already mentioned the negative impact that too many plot devices had on this movie, but I have to address the movie’s biggest plot device, Regan. Regan is Evelyn and Lee’s deaf daughter. I liked the fact that this character was deaf because it had the potential of making way for some very unique horror. Monsters that are super-sensitive to sound and a young girl who is completely unaware of the sound she creates, unaware of how loud she is, and unaware of how close the monsters are. Unfortunately the filmmakers did not really explore this. Take nothing away from the young actress, Millicent Simmonds. She did a great job but the filmmakers resorted to lazy writing in when it came to this character.
Regan is a whining, emotional kid and the filmmakers used this as a plot device whenever they could. The parents are extremely careful with what toys they give their kids? No worries, Regan will find the loudest toy and give it to her brother so that we can get some monsters on-screen. The kids are separated from their parents but would know better than to leave their rendezvous spot? No worries, Regan will convince them otherwise so that we get the intensity of Lee trying to rescue his kids. Even the fact that she’s deaf is nothing more than a plot device to lead the story towards it’s climax. It seems like whenever the writers had written themselves into a corner (or wanted to make things more exciting) Regan was their answer.
Pro: Family & The Monsters (+6pts)
The premise of this movie was truly compelling. It is a world filled with terrifying monsters that hunt living things using super-sensitive hearing. These monsters are incredibly violent, have armor-like skin, are incredibly fast, and seemingly unstoppable. Basically, if you make a sound with one nearby, you are dead and there is nothing you can do about it. If you make a sound while they are not nearby, they will still hear you and you have to stay silent until they leave. These monsters made for a ton of intense moments, but there was more to the premise than that.
This movie is all about this family and two parents who will stop at nothing to protect their kids. They then find out that Evelyn is pregnant so they must prepare for an inevitably loud childbirth in a world where someone could be killed if they step on a twig. I have already touched on the desperation of Evelyn and Lee so I will not get into it here as well, though it is relevant. This movie was really all about what parenting means in a post-apocalyptic world like this, and it was fascinating to see played out on-screen.
Con: The Weakness (-3pts)
This movie did a great job at using (and making the audience fear) the monsters. They are extremely dangerous and come, seemingly, out of nowhere, but everything has a weakness right? Unfortunately, this movie does a pretty poor job of setting up that weakness. The main character, Lee, has been studying these monsters and has spent countless hours beating his head against the wall while trying to figure it out.
As an audience member, it is pretty obvious (with only knowing the film’s premise) what the alien’s weakness is. I was a little put off by the fact that we, as an audience, were supposed to believe that Lee is smart, has spent most of his free time thinking about what their weakness is, and was unable to figure it out. I mean the guy even rights the weakness (in big font) on his own whiteboard, and stares at this whiteboard for hours on end, but does not figure it out. I mean, the thought never enters the guys mind? The answer is literally staring him in the face. It would have been fine if Lee knew the weakness (like the audience did), but simply did not know how (or have the tools) to apply it. Lee is smart, but the writers used lazy writing to make him dumb in an attempt to “surprise” the audience.
Grade: A- (90pts)
A Quiet Place was a thrill-ride with some terrifying aliens, but it was so much more than that. This movie follows two parents and their struggle to keep their children safe in this extremely dangerous new world while also trying to prepare for a new baby. The movie has a pretty gimmicky premise, that centers around an alien race that is super-sensitive to sound. As a result, humanity has to be absolutely silent in order to survive.
In order for this premise to work, the aliens have to be terrifying, and (fortunately) they were. The aliens were extremely fast, extremely powerful, and (if you make a sound) can hear you from miles away. This movie is all about the family, but the aliens were done really well and definitely gave the movie a horror-thriller feel. The filmmakers also used sound in the most fascinating way. A good portion of this movie is silent, which gives the audience an appreciation of just how quietly these characters have to live. Sound (or the absence of it) was utilized flawlessly in this movie, and Emily Blunt and John Krasinski were able to shine without saying a word. This movie resorts to lazy writing and plot devices in a few areas but, for the most part, this was a really well done movie. It is compelling, entertaining, chilling, and definitely worth the price of the ticket.