The high-concept of a horror thriller about a family of four in a post-apocalyptic world, who do all they can to remain silent to avoid a mysterious (and blind) monster, sounded incredibly thrilling (at least according to trailers and an impressive marketing campaign, with the tagline, "If they hear you, they hunt you"). Yet, I (like many) had every reason to be skeptical and wonder if that same effect would carry into and permeate a 90-minute feature film, or was just a pretentious and corny idea. Not to mention the fact that it was produced by Michael Bay's production company Platinum Dunes.
Surprisingly, A Quiet Place exceeds that skepticism and proves not only effective and really scary, but also on-the-edge-of-your-seat, extremely well-made, and quite emotional.
The terrific screenplay by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (with help from director and co-star John Krasinski) includes minimal dialogue and lots of specificity in how to tell a story (in this case, a story about a family) with visuals and sound. Specificity in how the main characters (a family known as the Abbots) treat all their appliances and tools with careful ease and walk around barefoot. Specificity and details on rooms with newspaper clippings, implying events that have led to the current setting. And specificity of each of the family members, from father Lee (Krasinski) to mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt, Krasinski's real-life wife), son Marcus (Wonder's Noah Jupe), and deaf daughter Regan (Wonderstruck's Millicent Simmons, a real-life deaf actress). And each of the performances are terrific, especially Simmons and the always-incredible Blunt, who, as actresses, evoke fearlessness and vulnerability.
Some may argue that certain elements in the film recall, say, Alien, the early works of M. Night Shyamalan (Signs, The Village), I Am Legend, Cloverfield, and even The Terminator (Sarah Connor!). But A Quiet Place stands as its own thing, and may, in fact, be the best thing that Bay and his company have ever produced. Now, there are maybe one or two elements of Bay's films that finds its way into the film (or maybe that's the typical Bay cynic talking, not me), but a lack of character investment and development over sound and spectacle isn't one of them. Sound still plays a key role viscerally, including Marco Beltrami's thumping and evocative score.
This is Krasinski's vision, first and foremost, and he pulls it off with sure substance and skill. He has directed two times before (for 2009's Brief Interviews With Hideous Men and 2016's The Hollars), but here, he truly breaks mainstream while maintaining creative freedom.
The image of Blunt sitting in a bathtub, pregnant and frightened, is already one of the year's most striking and unforgettable film images, encapsulating what the movie represents: parents fearing for the safety of their children, as well as raising them in (or bringing them into) a scary and dangerous world, or simply going out into it. The screenplay handles these themes, along with guilt and grief over the loss of loved ones, with understanding.
To avoid ending on a depressing note here, I should note (without spoiling) that the screenplay is wise to include choices to fight and move on, to stand up to and overcome fear for the sake of personal and familial survival. Now, how often do horror-thrillers go that deep?