Saturday, April 14, 2018

A QUIET PLACE

Emily Blunt     John Krasinski     Noah Jupe     Millicent Simmonds     Cade Woodward


     This is a very quiet place, necessarily, because acutely hearing monsters might hear and attack wherever human sound is coming from.  It took a while for the audience to settle down, but before long, it was the quietest movie theater I’ve ever been in, which is a measure of just how much tension and apprehension the film elicits in the audience.  It’s clear from the beginning that there has been some kind of holocaust; there are few people around, stores have been wrecked, and the characters we see use sign language.
     The Abbott family (father, mother, daughter, and two sons) is appealing, and they’re able to communicate a great deal with sign language and visual cues. Evelyn (Blunt) is nurturing and fun with her family, doing household chores and home-schooling the kids. And one of your first questions is how she is going to keep a newborn quiet, because she is pregnant. Lee (Krasinski) is intelligent, and he and Emily seem to have thought of everything—well, almost everything—in preparing for eventualities and training their children about what to do. In addition, he spends much time in his workshop trying to get as much information as possible about the monsters and find their vital weakness.  The three children, daughter Regan (Simmonds), Marcus (Jupe), and Beau (Woodward) are typical in their propensity for play and unpredictability, as well as their desire to help.   Regan has a special burden to bear because of something that happens early on in the story.  They are all so appealing, it’s easy to care about what happens to them.
     Krasinski’s directing is something he will be proud of, in its story line (on which he collaborated with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck), the development and pace of the plot, and the selection of the cinematographer Charlotte Bruus and musician Marco Beltrami.   Much of the film is beautiful to watch, with the surreal experience of quietness as the family walks around barefoot, sometimes through the corn fields and woods in full color, punctuated by rushing waters, static in electrical and computer devices (and even in a hearing aid), and the alarming sound of monsters (gorgeously and ghoulishly designed by Industrial Light and Magic) as they groan, trying to find the source of a sound or swoosh in loudly for a kill.  
     Both Emily Blunt and her real-life husband John Krasinski show their talents in acting that conveys so much information nonverbally.  Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) is admirably expressive, and in this role brilliantly shows Regan’s complexities in her hearing impairment (which is real for Simmonds), her unequivocal love for her brothers, her ambivalence toward her parents, and her feelings of guilt, suspicion, and rage toward her father.  
     All the different special effects and production design (Jeffrey Beecroft) in A Quiet Place are noteworthy, especially for a horror film, which knows to reveal the physical appearance of the monsters only gradually.  For much of the first part of the film, they’re only heard, not visible, which heightens the fear factor.  But then, when they’re fully seen, they are fascinating and disgusting at the same time.
     As one who is not an aficionado of horror movies, I found this one to be thoroughly engaging, parsing out the horror in believable—not too fantastic—premises and scenes.  I could have done without the ill-conceived pregnancy and birth of a baby (although this amazing couple even planned that out very carefully.)  

A Quiet Place is deceptive in its title, as an unspeakable horror where sounds can destroy you and your family.

Grade:  A-                                    By Donna R. Copeland

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