Nestled in the thick brush of miles upon miles of corn stalk, Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) watches as an other-worldly creature sprints its way past his trembling body towards his two children trapped yards above. The terror for Abbott isn’t the impossible decision between battling this creature for his children’s lives or retreating to his home to safeguard his wife and newborn son, but the fact that no matter what he chooses, it will probably make no difference.
Like its title, “A Quiet Place” is soft-spoken, methodical and to the point. It does not bore us with empty filler of the Abbott family’s past life or their dreams for the future, its solely about this hushed family grappling with the endless conundrum of how to survive the today. While the fear initially stems from the monsters terrorizing the Abbotts, it compounds through the failure of well-designed safeguards and the inevitability of human error.
We start off with Lee and his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) roaming an empty town with their children in search of supplies. It’s daytime and they’re out in the open, but as long as they’re quiet, they’re safe. The monsters who’ve caused this mass extinction or apocalypse are only attracted to sound.
Of course, that no noise stuff ain’t happening. Even with soundproof walking trails, fully-fluent sign language skills, and sleeping, cooking and eating arrangements that marvelously emit no audio, some sort of noise is bound to fall between the cracks of their rickety wood floors. And when that happens, the Abbotts can only cover their mouths and hold back their screams, their fight-or-flight instinct trumped by the overpowering will to survive.
Lee and Evelyn’s transformation from parents to protectors is a driving force of the film’s gripping terror. They watch as their children play board games and are in no shortage of jokes or I love you’s. But they struggle with giving their children independence and letting them become their own people. Lee and Evelyn’s biggest fear isn’t necessarily losing their children, but losing their identity of protectors if their kids no longer need their help.
But its Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe who bring a sense of wonder to the film through their virtuoso performances as the Abbott children, Regan and Marcus. Like Millicent in real life, Regan is hearing-impaired, a trait that seems cruelly convenient in this silent world, but still defines her as an outsider. Regan can’t tell if Lee’s constant attempts to repair her hearing device is to genuinely help her survive, or make her seem more normal in Lee’s eyes. Noah is reluctant to learn the harsh truths of adulthood, trying to get out of a father-son outdoor excursion with Lee. But when he’s left to fend for himself, he bites his complaining tongue, his newfound manhood proudly trumpeting through his closed mouth.
Krasinski, who directed the film, has created a wholly-realized, closely-confined world that feels as independent and unique as much as it is a clear homage to “Signs,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Jurassic Park.” Even as we get accustomed to the Abbott’s survival scenario, carefully-shot scenes still evoke a new, strange sense of terror, like when Lee and Noah sprint away from an abrupt noise in the woods, or when Evelyn fights her screams in a bathtub while in labor. “A Quiet Place” is a rewarding experience, one that should be experienced in a state-of-the-art, audio-elite theater to fully engorge in the danger lurking in the silence.