Monday, 13 August 2018

A Quiet Place

Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, and Millicent Simmonds    

Director: John Krasinski

90 minutes (15) 2018
Paramount 4K Ultra HD

Rating: 8/10
Review by Christopher Geary  

Sometimes, genre cinema delivers novelty pictures. Sometimes, taking your work home with you is a very good thing. Seemingly designed for the deaf, this movie posits a dark future where aliens hunt by sound, much like Wyndham’s Triffids before them. However, the deadly monsters visualised for A Quiet Place are not plodding big plants but super-fast predators that stalk a rural landscape, and pounce on every squeak or tinkle. When fireworks explode, the monsters come running like they’ve heard a dinner bell.

Emily Blunt stars as pregnant Evelyn, whose family must live and scavenge in complete silence to survive, with problems of communication, not unlike those previously seen in Buffy The Vampire Slayer celebrated episode Hush (1999). Director John Krasinski, who is married to Blunt, plays Evelyn’s husband, Lee. Their headstrong young daughter Regan (deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck) is the most rational and yet pessimistic character, and she provokes a crisis after leaving her mother all alone without help when the baby’s due soon. Regan wears a cochlear implant, and this device proves to be vital to discovering the creatures’ weakness and quickly field-testing an improvised solution to killing them.

Although a few elements of this hit sci-fi horror movie seem rather contrived - especially the dangerous nail on a staircase, and the premature birth scene - A Quiet Place does fit very neatly into the vaguely surreal cross-genre mode of post-apocalypse nightmare movies, exemplified by Day Of The Triffids, while Ridley Scott’s Alien is another obvious influence. 

As a movie without much dialogue, the use of sounds and complete silence is often quite inspired here, despite the reliance upon sign language (that once common trope of soap operas, usually to somewhat maudlin effect), and the Abbot family living in a crucible of terror is held together not by scientific knowledge, or very much practical ingenuity, but formed into a survivalist unit by simple-minded religious beliefs.

Thankfully, this is not a (mostly) silent movie in the utterly pretentious sense of Oscar-winning B&W production The Artist (2011), or the Spanish version of Snow White (aka: Blancanieves, 2012). The mystery of a wholly personalised sci-fi, and its farm setting, in A Quiet Place often seems reminiscent of Signs (2002), and Krasinski’s direction mirrors the cryptic tone of Shyamalan’s work in general.

Risk assessments, diversionary tactics, grief-stricken responses to a horrifying tragedy. All of these genre-related tensions build up to a stunning hold-your-breath climax where red lights mean danger close, and the alien threat invades the family home. An excellent job of casting young actors to play energetic roles, where they actually save each other, in truly heroic fashion, without reliance upon their parents, bolters this movie’s appeal to a varied audience, and the kids never succumb to Disneyfied schmaltz and juvenile adventuring.

More importantly, here’s a movie that challenges the familiar Hollywood orthodoxy that a pregnancy can hamper female beauty. A Quiet Place presents Evelyn’s motherhood as an attractive trait, without being blatantly sexy, and thanks to the headlining performance by an already accomplished actress, she’s just extraordinary as the climactic action heroine, too, while still maintaining her motherly characterisation. That’s certainly Blunt force trauma for aliens, indeed.

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