‘A Quiet Place’ silently disturbs viewers
Warning: This review contains spoilers for the movie A Quiet Place
Show, don’t tell. It’s a crucial rule all movies should follow. Unfortunately, some films fall short of that and fail. A Quiet Place is not one of those failures. While not perfect by any means, it succeeded where it needed to. The true brilliance in A Quiet Place comes with the use of sound, the highlight of the movie, that makes the movie all the more suspenseful. There’s next to no spoken dialogue, no exposition, no context, no world building, and that’s okay.
Where it succeeds
If A Quiet Place does anything right, it’s suspense through sound. Easily the best thing about the film is how quiet it is. But this isn’t a case of just playing around with sound as a plot device, this is an interactive experience like nothing else. The entire theater I went to was dead silent. If someone tried to unwrap their candy, no matter how quietly they tried, the whole theater could hear it. Sound, or the lack thereof, carried the film. Director John Krasinski had to get creative due to the problem a lack of sound brings. That’s where “show, don’t tell” really shines. We don’t get any context for where these creatures come from, how they got here, or even how many there are through dialogue. But we do see clues scattered throughout the Abbott farm. The movie creatively gives us what we need to know, and nothing else.
The film centers around a family, and briefly an elderly couple. No other people were featured past the Abbotts. That’s completely fine. The movie shines in being so self-contained. In fact, it needed to be in order to succeed. With such a limiting plot device like a lack of spoken dialogue, you can’t really build a world if no one can explain anything about it. But the film made it not matter how the world got the way it was. All that matters is people now have to remain quiet in order to survive. The movie does subtly world-build, albeit in a limited and unimportant way. One shot early in the film shows Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) light a fire on top of a silo. As he looks around sees more fires. There are other people out there somewhat close to the Abbott house, but they don’t matter. A Quiet Place is like an excerpt from a much larger universe, and it works because of that. Each of those fires could’ve been what the movie was about, but we got the Abbotts’ story and not theirs. This movie is less Cloverfield and more 10 Cloverfield Lane.
Not to mention the use of a deaf character was incredibly interesting. The use of sign language throughout the film was unique and necessary, and having a deaf character makes sense. There were moments where we heard what Regan (Millicent Simmonds) heard, which is nothing. One specific scene showed a monster creeping up behind her, and she had no idea since she can’t hear. It was truly unsettling to watch.
Where it fails
However, no movie is perfect, and A Quiet Place is no exception. The main problem in the movie comes with character development. A major example of this is at the end of the film when Lee sacrifices himself to save his kids (and by extension, his wife and newborn). Right before he yells to draw the creature toward him, he tells his daughter Regan he loves her through sign language. That’s beautiful, truly it is. But it didn’t feel like there was an actual connection between Lee and Regan. We see Lee make hearing devices for Regan, and they have a fight. That sums up their relationship before he saves Regan and her brother Marcus (Noah Jupe). There just wasn’t much time spent between these characters. The movie is a little over an hour and a half long and could’ve easily spent more time with these two characters. It did feel like Lee was closer to his wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), and Marcus but not to Regan.
Lee’s death also isn’t warranted. Had he not gone for the ax, he probably could’ve made it to the truck with his kids. It’s dramatic sure, but it didn’t feel all that necessary. The hearings aids Lee made ended up being the monster’s weakness. But he didn’t get to see that, because Regan turned off her hearing aid at a time when she should’ve left it on. The film really tries to hammer home the fact that Regan isn’t responsible for her brother Beau’s (Cade Woodard) death at the beginning of the movie, but she completely is. On top of that she’s responsible for her father’s death, and almost for Marcus’ as well. The film spends more time trying to make Regan innocent, when it should be building the relationship between the family members, specifically Lee and Regan.
The ending was also unsatisfying and cut off too soon. It’s one of those “the audience will fill in the blank” endings. Evelyn, having killed one monster thanks to Regan amplifying the white noise her hearing aid gives off, draws even more monsters to the house. The movie just ends with Evelyn cocking a gun. That’s great, but those monsters are fast and there are many more headed to the house. I doubt she would be able to hold them all off, even if they’re weakened by the hearing aid.
In the end
A Quiet Place is without a doubt an excellent movie. Any film that practices “show, don’t tell” first and foremost is going to do well. There are some legitimate problems, and some of its successes could also be seen as failures. However, for what the film is and for what it set out to do, it absolutely accomplishes its goal. Definitely go watch it if you haven’t already.
Featured image from TeaserTrailer
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