By Sam Harris | @samewlharris
In a moment of candour, pyrotechnic-enthusiast and walking-explosion Michael Bay posted a photo of the Rotten Tomatoes page for A Quiet Place with the Tomatometer sitting at 100%. “This is a first for my company”, he wrote, “Quiet Place, our movie this weekend.” It surprised me because, first: I had no idea that Bay was willing to allow for a little self-deprecation, however intentional; and two, I had no idea that he had anything to do with the project.
It seems that somewhere in between Bay’s latest exercise in American heroism, 13 Hours, he and A Quiet Place actor-turned-auteur John Krasinski became good friends. At first, the idea of an introverted Jim Halpert-type shaking hands with one of the most emphatically macho directors in Hollywood seems out of place. All things circling Bay seem to involve the phrase ‘bigger and better’ – then, how the hell did we get here? Platinum Dunes, Bay’s production company, tends to focus on gore and franchising and remakes – A Quiet Place seems alien to this crowd, a fresh face.
A Quiet Place drops us into a post-apocalyptic landscape that at first seems all too familiar – we’re introduced to a wasteland full of murmurs and empty drug stores and scurried footsteps. We find the Abbott family – the only characters we see in the film – as they scavenge for supplies not daring to make a noise. Real life husband and wife Krasinski and Emily Blunt make up the Abbott seniors, parents of three and surveyors of silence. We make our way through the opening where we wonder just how things are going to play out – zombies seem likely, the brown-grey trappings of Krasinki’s hellscape totally reminiscent of The Walking Dead’s title sequence; something supernatural, maybe? Then, the Abbott children slip up – their youngest kid carries a toy that accidentally sounds off, echoing through the trees – and with the click of a button dashes in a large, anthropomorphised insect-like creature who snatches their kid up. In some kind of delayed moment of epiphany, we go the way of Kristen Bell: oh, THIS is the Quiet Place.
What’s most interesting here is how Krasinski navigates his soundless world. The presence of Regan, played by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds of Wonderstruck fame, immediately harks back to the pitfalls of dealing with a concept as such. Todd Haynes made mince meat of his attempt which plays like a bedtime story lost entirely in translation; Krasinski applies these formal constraints to something with a little more rigour. It’s a slow build that hinges itself on ideas of family – who’d bring one into this desolate world? Jumping forward about a year from the opening sequence’s events, Evelyn (Blunt) finds herself expecting another child, providing a crux for much of the film’s emotive power and tension. Children are great, sure, but that’s only when they’ve progressed past the point where they’re loud and can control their racket. Being hunted by inexplicable, hypersensitive monsters is hard enough as is – that they decide to bring another child into the world is bonkers, if not commendable.
A Quiet Place is a near polar opposite to the bombastic schtick that a film attached to Bay’s name would suggest, but its few moments of chaos dish out some of the year’s best imagery. Krasinksi makes ample theatrical work of his source material. Silence is key; find yourself a well-behaved crowd and this is gangbusters.