For actor John Krasinski, fans primarily know him for his role on the American remake of The Office as Jim Halpert, the lovable everyman who constantly pranked Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute and romanced Jenna Fischer’s Pam Beesly. But in recent years, one could argue that Krasinski has begun to transition away from his comedic roots. In 2016, he starred in Michael Bay’s war flick 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, and later this year, he’ll become the fifth actor to take on the role of Tom Clancy’s classic protagonist Jack Ryan in the upcoming titular TV series on Amazon, another project that he’s collaborating with Michael Bay on. And to top it all off, Krasinski has also begun to make a foray into directing. Prior to this year, he directed a pair of dramedies in the form of 2009’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and 2016’s The Hollars, both of which he also wrote and starred in. And this trend continues with his latest directorial outing, A Quiet Place, in which he co-stars with his real-life wife Emily Blunt and, yes, is once again collaborating with Michael Bay via the latter’s production company, Platinum Dunes. This time around, Krasinski tackles the horror genre with a film that’s based around the concept of silence as the main characters are forced to maintain such silence to survive against a collection of creatures who hunt through hearing. And thanks to the film’s highly effective treatment of this premise, along with an excellent sense of emotional poignancy, it’s quite easy to see why A Quiet Place is currently one of the most well-reviewed films of the year.
As the film begins, it’s established that the planet has been ravaged by a group of hostile extraterrestrial creatures. While these creatures are blind, they also have a heightened sense of hearing that allows them to easily hunt their prey if they end up making any loud noises. This, of course, forces any surviving humans to live their lives in complete silence to avoid being killed by them. This includes farmer Lee Abbott (John Krasinski), who lives this exact lifestyle alongside his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their two kids; their daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who’s deaf, and their son Marcus (Noah Jupe). Communicating with each other via sign language, the family has managed to endure one full year of this alien threat while Lee continuously works to find any sort of weakness that the creatures might have. While all this is going on, Evelyn is about to have another baby and Regan struggles to cope with the guilt that she feels over a recent tragedy that the family has been through. But soon enough, it becomes apparent that the alien creatures are slowly but surely starting to come their way. Thus, Regan and Marcus find themselves having to ‘grow up’ a lot quicker than expected to help their parents fend off this terrifying threat before it gets them first.
A Quiet Place very much lives up to its title, as the film is almost completely dialogue-free aside from the use of subtitled sign language and a few instances where louder bits of background noise allow the characters to speak normally. And while there is a backing score by Marco Beltrami, a lot of scenes rely solely on diegetic sound to help accentuate the importance of the characters’ silence. It also helps to establish a great sense of tension, making one dread what’s going to happen next whenever someone slips up and makes a loud noise. With that in mind, yes, this is a horror film that features one of the genre’s most infamous aspects, jump-scares, but in this instance, it fits the narrative as does the ‘Spielberg method’ of not fully showing the creatures at first. Because at its core, A Quiet Place is about the importance of family, a concept that is established right out the gate when the Abbott family suffers a devastating personal tragedy during the opening sequence and is maintained all throughout the film, culminating in an intensely emotional event during the finale. This immediately makes them a sympathetic group who are only strengthened further by the film’s excellent cast. Along with the excellent job that he does directing the film, John Krasinski perfectly encapsulates the role of a father who feverishly works to keep his family safe. The same goes for Emily Blunt, who Krasinski, of course, has excellent chemistry with. Ultimately, though, the real standouts of the film are their two kids, played by Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. Jupe shines as the young son who finds himself forced to learn about the dangers of their current dilemma the hard way while Simmonds gets some of the best bits of character development in the entire film by way of how the previously mentioned family tragedy begins to create friction between her and her father.
Now as I’ve made it clear several times in the past, I’m not a big fan of the horror genre. However, several recent horror films (specifically this, the film adaptation of It, and Get Out) have made me realize what it is about the genre that personally pulls me into it. For me, the best aspect of a horror film isn’t how memorable the main antagonist is or the creative ways in which characters are killed off. Simply put, if I don’t give a crap about the main characters in these horrifying situations that they end up in, then quite frankly it’s all for naught. And that’s what these three films managed to avoid via the strongly developed protagonists that are the Abbott family, the Losers’ Club, and Chris Washington, respectively. Oh sure, A Quiet Place does manage to succeed at creating a palpable amount of tension via its effective use of silence. This helps to make its proceedings even more intimidating due to the fearful anticipation that comes from the build-up to the inevitable alien-attracting noise. But at the end of the day, the reason why this film works as well as it does is thanks to its strong familial themes that are handled phenomenally by the lead quartet of John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe. Thus, just like It and Get Out, A Quiet Place is a prime example of a horror film that is so well-written, directed, and acted that it ultimately ends up being more than just ‘a horror film’ to become a highly satisfying watch that can strongly appeal to those who aren’t fans of the horror genre. I mean, who knows? If these three films weren’t enough proof of it, we might just be experiencing something of a ‘renaissance’ right now for this iconic film genre.