John Krasinski directs and stars in a taut, post apocalyptic movie, the premise of which is that any sound is usually followed swiftly by a violent death. It’s a great set up for a film, as you rapidly become aware how much of human activity necessitates making sound – communication, transport, food production, giving birth. There is hardly a sound made in the opening 15 minutes, and when there is one, it is devastating. This device of making noise deadly allows the tension in even the simplest act to become almost unbearable. Every act needs to be slow and calculated, and the small details are finely observed, for instance playing Monopoly with soft pieces. At one point someone in the cinema coughed and I jumped, such was the tragic weight placed on human sound.
I particularly admired the courage this film has in avoiding exposition, and the manner in which it treats the audience with respect. I deliberately didn’t find out anything about the movie before going to see it – beyond being a horror (it isn’t really) starring Emily Blunt which had a good buzz, I knew none of the set up. This meant I could appreciate the opening scene, so I won’t spoil that for anyone. It is carefully crafted, with gradually revealed hints as to how this family is in this situation, and what has happened globally. As the viewer you do a lot of constructing the back story in the opening 15 minutes, and this adds to the authenticity of a story we are deposited in.
It’s a tightly constructed, lean movie, coming in at 90 minutes, and focused almost exclusively around the four main characters. There has been a recent trend of low to medium budget post apocalyptic movies, focusing on realistic portrayal of families, with It Comes at Night, 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Survivalist. A Quiet Place might be my favourite in this sub-genre.
If I have a criticism, it’s that the super-efficient hunting aliens have wiped out most of humanity, but seem fairly easily tricked by our heroes. In much the same way that advanced killing machine the Predator could be fooled by some mud, or the evil Daleks by running up some stairs. But that is a necessary plot licence, and is not overdone.