Ssh! A Quiet Place demands your attention

by Shane Dillon
A Quiet Place

Less is more. We’ve all heard that mantra applied to one thing after another, though cinema tends to go very much the other way, where there’s no such thing as too much, too excessive, too loud and too crazy.

This has become particularly prevalent in recent years, with an endless conveyor belt of bombastic blockbusters that have made blazing cities and planetary destruction something of a yawnfest.

Sometimes it’s a relief to just sit back and soak up a quieter film and experience instead, to find some calm, not a storm.

If that’s the kind of film you’re looking for with A Quiet Place (Cert 15A, 90 mins) – sorry, this isn’t the soothing spot you’re looking for, but rather a place of creeping dread, punctuated by tension and a tightening of the screws that largely eschews conventional cinema scares for other traumas instead.

As you’d expect from the title, quiet – or rather, unforgiving silence – is at the heart of the film, as a force which not only impels the characters and plot forward, but creeps into the cinema as an oppressive agent, drawing the viewer along as an unwilling accomplice to the action.

At its heart, the film takes an all too familiar trope – the struggle to survive in a world that’s fallen to an overpowering force – and brings it down to the personal and identifiable, following a small family eking out an existence in the rural depths of nowheresville at their carefully modified home.

It’s a quiet place indeed, or rather, a silent place, as the Abbotts are forced to live in utter silence, lest they draw the attention of omnipresent deadly creatures which have somehow decimated the planet (as set up in the film’s preamble, before joining the family some time later after they’ve adjusted to this new life).

The horrible hunters are seemingly blind, but they’re drawn with startling, deadly speed to any noise – particularly the sounds that any crunchy, delicious, noisy humans might make.
Even quiet talking and whispering is dangerous now, with the terror of discovery and sudden, violent death stalking the characters’ every footstep along carefully marked trails.

As a helpful plot device the family communicate in sign language (with special kudos for deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, as the resourceful daughter).

However, although a conventional dialogue is mostly missing here, you’re never in any doubt as to what the cast are feeling, with the relentless, gruelling silence needing every nuanced emotion, tic, stressed look and gesture to gain a weight that’s missing in a standard dialogue-driven film.

Emily Blunt is pretty mesmerising in a role that pushes emotion to the fore instead, with excellent support from John Krasinski as the husband also desperately trying to keep them all quiet – and alive.

However, that quietness practically oozes off the screen for much of the film, snaking and coiling around the audience under director John Krasinki’s expert touch, making them complicit in the family’s blunders, decisions and occasional terror as they quietly fight for survival.

The characters and film alike sometimes put a foot wrong, but for the most part it’s an imaginative creature-feature that takes a simple concept and a slow-burning pace, but ultimately it’s something you’ll want to praise.

Just don’t shout about it from the rooftops …

Verdict: 8/10

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