A Quiet Place ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Imagine, if you will, a post-apocalyptic world, one of what is literally deathly silence, where making any kind of noise that is even just remotely loud immediately causes your quick and grisly death. Imagine that you have to live the entire rest of your life this way, while also having to care for and protect your entire family, which of course, means living with four other people (including a couple of very young children) who can potentially produce an unintentional noise, and get every single one of you killed in the blink of an eye. Now imagine that your wife will soon give birth to a squirming, screaming baby, with only a couple of weeks left for you to to find a way for her to safely (which, in this case, means silently) give birth, all while keeping everyone involved, above all things, quiet. Well, John Krasinski has imagined such a world for us in the superb A Quiet Place, a movie that expertly blends an irresistable, high-concept gimmick with a consistently tense and thrilling execution, resulting in a combination of visceral, B-movie thrills with A-movie craft that is disappointingly rare to encounter in modern film.

When it comes to the film's story, I already described pretty much everything you need to know about the film's plot, and, while there are a few important specifics that haven't been mentioned yet (the most important of which being the daughter's hearing impairment, which justifies the entire family being proficient in sign language, a skill that, of course, helps explain how they've improbably survived so long), for the most part, A Quiet Place is a very simple, straightforward film, one that's mostly distinguished by its central gimmick of mysterious, hideous monsters that hunt people exclusively by sound, both in its (literally) quieter first half, and its relentlessly escalating, unbearably intense finale. Whereas it's easy to imagine a less dedicated filmmaker merely using the idea for an occasionally cheap jump scare, and forget about it completely the rest of the time, Krasinksi goes all the way here with Place's "silence is survival" conceit, placing a refreshingly restrained and mature emphasis on almost completely non-verbal storytelling (through subtitled sign language and other means), carefully focusing every single scene and moment around a constant awareness of every potentially life-ending noise the characters are making,

Krasinski retains a certain, strong discipline around his practical executions of the idea, showing us how the family gets around their farmland in silence by walking barefoot ontop of paths of freshly laid sand, or a moment when the son lets out a long pent-in yell of joy when he's led to a cacophonous, noise-masking waterfall in the woods, or when the mother and father (portrayed by Krasinski and his real-life spouse Emily Blunt) use a pair of shared earbuds to enjoy a romantic dance while listening to Neil Young's "Harvest Moon", a lovely moment of sound in world that's turned into one big silent Hell. Of course, that isn't to suggest that such pathos are one of A Quiet Place's main strengths on the whole, as a few of the more personal, emotional moments among the family here either feel a bit like shoehorned afterthoughts, or are simply just not developed at all (the ending in particular finishes on a rather sudden, "cutesy" little audience-pleaser note, rather than with a more thoughtful, reverent direction I feel would've suited the film better).

That being said, the film still finishes strong with its 2nd half, which is basically a non-stop domino effect of narrow escapes and unabashed creature feature scares, delivering the kind of guttural, horrifically tense thrills that were mostly (and smartly) denied to us during the film's almost completely silent opening act, as we marvel in fear at just how the family can possibly escape whatever latest, horrible situation they find themselves trapped in. One horrific turn just leads to another which inevitably leads to another, with the final 45 minutes of a Place containing FAR more sheer terror and excitement than the vast majority of other Horrors can deliver in 2 hours and some change. Some occasionally sloppy details aside (so how and when did that water main get busted, anyway?), A Quiet Place was a great time at the theater, and already a strong contender for best Horror movie in a year that isn't even halfway over yet, so, unlike the characters here... don't be afraid to spread the word!

Final Score: 8.5