The best movies sneak up on you. A vicious tornado that rips through town without any warning. You didn't see it coming, and the aftermath quite literally blows you away.
This is a pretty lousy metaphor, but my point is, the best movies are the ones you don't think much about but are left slack-jawed once the end credit rolls.
This is the luck of A QUIET PLACE, a marvelous post-apocalyptic monster movie about family. That's a sentence I never thought I would write.
A QUIET PLACE stars John Krasinski (who also co-wrote and directed) and Emily Blunt (SICARIO), as a married couple (whom are married in real life) trying to raise their children in a future world where monsters hunt anything that makes a sound.
What makes the design of these creatures so terrifying is that they're not here to feed or hunt for sport (hello my dear PREDATOR (1987)). These monsters go berserk by the sound of anything -- human noise, a tractor, or even a spaceship toy. We don't know why they are here; we know they've been here a while and already wiped out half of humanity. What's terrifying is our only defense system: to stay as quiet as possible and hope a fart or sneeze doesn't have the creatures coming to slaughter.
Lee (Kraskinski) and Evelyn (Blunt) have built a quaint little home/fortress for themselves and their kids. They've paved paths to walk (barefoot) on that eliminates noise, and they communicate with each other via sign language; one of the children, actress Millicent Simmonds, is deaf in real life -- kudos to Krasinski for hiring an actor who is truly hard of hearing versus hiring someone just to pretend, it gives the casts' communication a natural presence. Simmonds reactions to important scenes feel more realistic because we -- the audience -- know she truly hearing impaired and doesn't know what could lurk right behind her. We are scared for her because she lives in a world where she may inadvertently cause a loud noise and not even know it. Imagine living with this threat daily. Terrifying.
Sure, A QUIET PLACE is a movie with monsters, but this is not a monster movie. A QUIET PLACE is an allegory on parenting and the challenges a mother and father face under sometimes extreme duress and pressure.
At the beginning of the movie -- within the first five minutes -- the Abbott's lose a child in a most violent and shocking way, setting the tone for the rest of the film: nobody is safe. There's an unspoken rule in cinema -- when you kill off a child, all bets are off. Anyone can die at any moment, including the stars of the movie. It's meant to make the audience uneasy and sweat during the film's entire running time because of that dreadful feeling so-and-so could die at any moment. This scene sets that tone, as well as the allegory about parenting and Emily Blunt's Evelyn says it best, "Who are we if we cannot protect our children?"
There is also a major character death and it's one that I that will never forget. This scene replays in my head over and over.
What makes A QUIET PLACE so impactful is the real star of the movie: the silence. It makes you question long after leaving the theater the little noises you make that now sound larger than life. Since first seeing this, I now tiptoe at my apartment because I don't want to wake up my roommate and I imagine the chagrin of my downstairs neighbors when I stomp. A good movie has you talking long after leaving the theater, and that is exactly what A QUIET PLACE has done for me and many others -- I think about this movie constantly. I think about the film's frightening atmosphere, and what I would do if I were ever in Lee and Evelyn's position.
It's only April, but A QUIET PLACE will make my top 10 movies of the year. I did not expect to be walloped upside the head as hard as I did seeing this movie.
A QUIET PLACE is quietly making a loud statement in Hollywood; it cost $17 million and has raked in $328,450,761 worldwide. It's a critic darling and audiences around the world love it. This message is pretty clear: people want originality (and John Krasinski in a beard). A QUIET PLACE screams cunning innovation on a genre that's hard to achieve real success.