Score: 4 stars **** out of 4 ****
Before The Masters golf tournament ends on Sunday, John Krasinski — that affable, dry humor dude from “The Office” — will find himself landing squarely on Hollywood’s director A-list and maybe even the actor A-list as well. While we’re at it, maybe even the producer and screenwriters top list as well.
Long before “The Office” ended, Krasinski dipped his toe in the director pool (“Brief Interviews With Hideous Men”) and did so again with the 2016 “The Hollars” and both were, well… not very good. He acted in both and also appeared in lots of other mediocre films (“Leatherheads,” “Aloha,” “13 Hours”). Had “A Quiet Place” also been a bust, Krasinski would still have had a fallback as the title character on the upcoming “Jack Ryan” TV series.
He’s also married to Emily Blunt, one of the most talented and beautiful actresses on the planet.
Some guys have all the luck.
Luck had nothing to with Krasinski’s unqualified mastery with “A Quiet Place.” Few people (Orson Welles, Warren Beatty, and Charlie Chaplin) have ever made a great film while wearing four major hats at once and Krasinski has done so here with a horror flick — the ugly stepsister of all movie genres.
Much in the same manner as Jordan Peele did at about this same time last year with “Get Out,” Krasinski has done with “A Quiet Place.” It’s a highly cerebral work of horror which flatly refuses to spoon feed the audience too much information in order to give them an easier viewing experience. This is a film you have to pay attention to and earn in order to fully understand and appreciate.
If the above wasn’t enough of a challenge for viewers, Krasinski and his co-writers (also the story creators) Bryan Woods and Scott Beck take the highly dicey gamble of including roughly just four pages of actual spoken dialogue with the remainder delivered in sign language (along with those always fun subtitles), ambient noise, complete dead silence and about two minutes of traditional action/horror movie audio. As commercially viable productions go, this movie is about a one on a 10 scale. From an artistic/creative perspective it’s an 18 on a 10 scale.
At the risk of over-simplification, Krasinski has not only redefined horror as we know it, he’s changed filmmaking in a manner not seen since the heyday of Stanley Kubrick or maybe, perhaps even Alfred Hitchcock. “A Quiet Place” is “The Birds” and “The Shining” (along with a bit of Ridley Scott’s “Alien”) crossbred with the dystopian/apocalyptic works of Cormac McCarthy.
We don’t know until about halfway through that it starts in 2020 in what appears to be upstate New York. It’s 80 or so days after an unspecified global disaster that brought with it alien creatures that can’t see, likely can’t smell but move at the speed of cheetahs, have ears the size of manhole covers and possess ultra-sensitive hearing. This sense is what allows them to find and immediately devour their prey.
The Abbott family has acclimated themselves as best they can to make as little noise as possible by not talking, not using flatware or china while eating, turning on appliances or even wearing shoes. When not foraging for food, patriarch Lee (Krasinski) is in the basement attempting to communicate with anyone via short wave radio or designing hearing aids for his deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds). Picking up the slack and then some is mother/wife Evelyn (Blunt) who is effectively operating in 19th century frontier mode. She prepares food with smoke, hand-washes clothes, and teaches son Marcus (Noah Jupe) math.
Not quite a year later, Evelyn is ready to give birth, Lee is preparing Marcus for future manly duties and Regan is riddled with guilt over something tragic that happened in the opening scene. The creatures are appearing with greater frequency and Lee and Evelyn’s greatest fear is her being able to deliver the baby without making a sound.
With 30 minutes to go, the filmmakers shift into overdrive and what up to this point has been mildly nerve-wracking morphs into full-blown, white-knuckle terror. There are few carefully placed screams (but still no talking), family members providing distraction for others and then an incredibly heart-crushing passage followed by one of those most poetic and uplifting endings in movie history.
If you regularly avoid horror and/or violent thrillers — stay far away from “A Quiet Place.” It will get under your skin immediately and regularly come back to haunt your dreams until you become a basket case. Seriously, just avoid it.
If however you love thrillers but have yet to find a horror film that simultaneously scares you and appeals to your heart and intelligence, drop everything you’re doing and go see it right now. “A Quiet Place” is a testament to everything that is good in us by testing us beyond the breaking point yet somehow forcing us to summon the strength, will, and spirit to ultimately emerge alive, if not completely victorious.
Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national media outlets and is currently the only newspaper-based film critic providing original content in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace and he recently co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. Over the last two decades, Mr. Clark has written over 3,500 movie reviews and film related articles for the Gwinnett Daily Post and is one of the scant few conservative-minded U.S. critics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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