“A Quiet Place” (2018)

Thriller/Horror

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Running Time: 90 minutes

Written by: John Krasinski, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck

Directed by:  John Krasinski

Featuring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

Evelyn: Who are we if we can’t protect them? We have to protect them.”

Critical Commentary:

Thanks to various decisions as well as new production companies, I am looking at you Blumhouse, there seems to be more and more quality horror movies being produced each year, as well as finding success with audiences and critics, most importantly this is happening in theatres. It appeared that with last years “Get Out” (2017) which was produced for US$4.5 million dollars and generated over US$255 million at the box office as well as being nominated for a slew of Oscars (winning Jordan Peele the best screenplay award) the limit may have been reached for measuring success in the genre – it appears that the top has not been reached for this genre, not even close. Now comes the release of not only a great horror movie but of a great film, in “A Quiet Place” (2018). Firstly, surprise of surprises this is not a Blumhouse film, it is a production company known for Horror remakes, Platinum Dunes who counts director Michael Bay as one of its main owners, as well as counting its biggest success as the remake, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (2011) – not a great pedigree at all or an example of the promise of producing what must be the Hollywood movie of the year so far, at least on a par with the critical and box office success of “Black Panther” (2018), look for a possible screenplay nomination come awards time for Krasinski and co.

“A Quiet Place” owes much of its success in terms of quality to co-writer, director and star John Krasinski whose talent he seems to have been hiding in even though he has written and directed other projects. He seems to have shinned the idea of making genre movies which after this home run appear that he has a natural talent for as well as a calling. This movie is so well written and directed that it is an almost perfect genre film feel, not only that it has a great central idea with much of the narrative naturally built around it as well as taking it further to producing something truly rare, an original monster movie that is actually hard to compare it to any other film of its kind. It cannot be understated how impressive this movie is as well as the incredible job that Krasinski has been able to pull off not only with an original script but also with a relatively low budget that is shot on location with some studio work. Not only that but one of the central aspects of the film is the use of sign language and Krasinski as well as his producers have done something that few have done before, that is to actually cast a deaf actress in the part of a deaf character, making that person the central character that not only the narrative is based around but the plot is as well. “A Quiet Place” is an example of taking a script, casting it perfectly, operating within a low budget as well as creating a visual style that suits the genre.

The film is set in 2020, most of Earth’s human population has been wiped out by sightless creatures with hypersensitive hearing and a seemingly impenetrable armoured shell that attack anything that makes noise. The Abbott family — husband Lee, wife Evelyn, congenitally deaf daughter Regan, and sons Marcus and Beau — silently scavenge for supplies in a deserted town. Though skilled in American Sign Language, the family must nonetheless be vigilant lest they make accidental noise. Four-year-old Beau is drawn to a battery-operated space shuttle toy, but his father takes it away. Regan returns the toy to Beau, who unbeknownst to her has also taken the batteries his father removed. Beau activates the shuttle when the family is walking home through the woods, near a bridge. Its noise makes him an instant target for a nearby creature, and he is swiftly killed.

There is no doubt in my mind that this movie is perfectly cast with a mixture of experienced as well as great actors, juxtaposed with some new talent that prove themselves to be well chosen as well as being able to match talents with the more experienced cast members. As well as John Krasinski in the role of the father there is his real life wife Emily Blunt in the role of the mother. Krasinski is just wonderful as the father who only has one job, protect his family at all costs; he is a smart resourceful man who speaks very little, as all good actors do conveys emotion as well as plot details through his face as well as sign language. Emily Blunt as the mother of the family has more speaking parts but also carries much of the emotion of the film; she also has to do a lot of physically nuanced acting which is a challenge in its own right. It would not be fair to the other cast members to say she is the central character or hero of the piece but she as an actress is rewarded by a great script as well as a solidly written character. The cast is rounded out by three children Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward who are all excellent as well as perfectly cast, but it is Simmonds who steals the movie as the oldest child as well as the chief agent of change who really comes through by the end of the movie. Simmonds is also really deaf so of course there is an authenticity to her role, which informs the entire film as well one of the main reasons the family, has lasted so long, surviving on wits as well as intelligence. She is also a revelation although she has appeared in other movies before it has to be said that “A Quiet Place” is one of those special films that allows her to show a full range of emotions as well as acting both physically and emotionally in a very good movie, one of the best of the year so far.

Whilst this is definitely not Krasinski’s directorial debut there was little hint that he had a film like “A Quiet Place” within him or ready to be made. It is an old adage that film is a visual medium but when the subject of the movie is being is silent then there is no room for endless exposition, which has become a hallmark of Hollywood movies in recent years with exceptionally lazy film-making. In fact from the opening scene this movie represents itself as something that has seldom been seen, an English language movie that uses American Sign Language as its language with the need for almost total sub-titles throughout. The conceit that almost any noise could be met with death is an almost primal feeling of what could be represented as isolation. Imagine being surrounded by people but not being able to speak, not being able to communicate the most basic pieces of information – even though you are with someone it is isolating bur anything else will effect everyones survival. The question remains is that without human communication do we survive or just prolonging the inevitable. From the very beginning we realise that something has happened to the world, the family we see is terrified, it is not until the use of newspapers as prime information both in the streets as well as at the family’s home do we know what is occurring, as well as the reason why there is fear of noise of any kind which has been replaced by silence, deafening in a way.

What Krasinski has done is to take a conceit like aliens or monsters hunting through the use of sound and expanded on that with many issues and solutions that are extremely well thought out as well as being told in a very compact and economical way. I will not spoil anything but there are many situations that have been mapped out in full, with obstacles as well as solutions, which fit well with the overall narrative as well as plot. This is something many genre movies could learn from, come up with a story that will fit within a narrative then realise the strengths and weaknesses of any antagonist as well as the protagonists – exactly what Krasinski has done as co-writer and of course director.

In many ways “A Quiet Place” does nothing that hasn’t been seen in many genre movies before but where it deviates from a vast majority is to take the typical monster movie, then give it a twist in terms of not only its narrative but the way the rules operate in its particular universe. It also heightens the mood and atmosphere by making this a family drama not as a result of the invasion but making this the central aspect of the plot, which again differentiates itself from other genre movies. The themes of family protection as well as the idea of familial loss and the ability to move past tragedy is as important as fighting the aliens or surviving in a hostile world. I recommend “A Quiet Place” highly and am not being original or alone as one of the best movies of the year so far, go and see it in a cinema where hopefully the audience will play along with the great narrative.

Technical Commentary:

Vital Disc Stats:

“A Quiet Place” arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy. At startup, viewers are taken directly to a static screen with the usual selection along the bottom and music playing in the background.

The Video: 

“A Quiet Place” has a great-looking HEVC H.265 encode that offers an excellent step-up over its Blu-ray counterpart. The difference is obvious, notable and extremely enjoyable, making it the endorsed medium for viewing the movie.

Coming from a 35mm source that was later mastered to a 2K digital intermediate, the freshly-minted 2160p transfer is highly-detailed for a majority of the runtime, exposing each element that is available in close up as well as a depth of field like few low budget movies around. However, there are a few moments that noticeably dip in resolution, most of which are extreme long shots and likely the result of the creative choices. Nevertheless, a visibly thin and stable grain structure, which can be a bit more prominent during several wide shots at night, which is a big chunk of the movie, provides a beautiful film-like quality.

Presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the 4K presentation comes with a slightly warmer than normal contrast balance, which tends to lightly bloom some of the hottest areas. This appears to be a deliberate visual style meant to reflect the family’s hot country surroundings. In either case, whites are crisp as the brightest spots are revealing especially with the times during the day, however as the movie heads into darkness these become rare.

Thankfully, brightness levels are not affected by the stylized photography, which is important in a movie mostly unfolding at night. Deeply rich and silky blacks are in abundance and show distinct gradational differences between the various shades, providing the image with appreciable dimensionality. Meanwhile, inky, dismally bleak shadows penetrate deep into the background, but sadly, the finer aspects are occasionally engulfed by the pitch-black darkness.

Audio:

“A Quiet Place” arrives with a reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack that takes full advantage of the object-based format. The design utilizes silence and noise for generating a particular experience. It’s not meant for bombarding the audience with the typical loudness as well as brute force expected of the genre, of which there are a few, but for creating a sense of dread and apprehension. So, various ambient effects, like the rustling of leaves, birds chirping or crickets singing in the distance, are endlessly occupying the surrounds and the ceiling channels. The better moments are those when the creatures are on the prowl or to give a greater sense of their menacing size. Their hungry growls and slow, determined footsteps flawlessly pan from the sides and rears into the back heights and continue directly overhead into the fronts.

The Supplements:

Reading the Quiet (HD, 15 min): Standard EPK-like featurette made of BTS footage and cast & crew interviews discussing the plot, its themes, the performances and other aspects of the production.

The Sound of Darkness (HD, 12 min): As the title implies, a short piece on creating and editing the sound design with particular attention on the film’s creative effects, lack of dialogue and the ominous musical score.

A Reason for Silence (HD, 8 min): Devoted to the specifics of designing the alien creatures

“A Quiet Place” is in cinemas now.

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