2018 has been far from stellar; Paradox was terrible, Mute was boring and Black Panther failed to amaze me, just to give you a few examples. I’ve only seen a handful of really good movies this year like Game Night and Annihilation, but now I’m happy to say that I can add another one to that list, namely A Quiet Place.
Ironically enough, the sound in A Quiet Place was one of the best things the film had to offer. When silence didn’t fill the film, a bombastic score was playing in the background giving you an immersive and pumped up feeling, or an on the edge sense of constant dread when needed. The fantastic score really added a lot to the filmgoing experience as it was able to generate tension on its own. I liked the contrast between the absolute silence and the bombastic score since it gave the soundtrack the more power. Think of it like in a song; first, there’s a buildup, followed by a drop, after which the music continues playing. Right before that drop, there’s a moment of silence, which adds more effect to the part coming after, which is the same technique A Quiet Place utilized to add more power to its soundtrack; that contrast between the quietness of the film followed by the sudden loudness of the score. It’s a finely crafted score that encapsulates everything the movies going for. It served as a storytelling tool equally as much as it did to serve as some background noise to build up tension. It’s one of the better scores I’ve heard all year and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got an award for it.
Same goes for the absolutely incredibly well-made sound design and the mixing thereof. The film pays a lot of attention to the smaller sounds in our surroundings and how they could affect the characters. The film made each and every small sound feel like a loud one, what in turn caused that they felt very significant. A couple of decibels too much could mean death and by having these small sounds be so loud, you’re constantly on edge wondering if they were too loud. Every movement’s a risk. Every sound could result in them suddenly not living anymore. The characters are in a constant life or death scenario, which asks them to live in silence. And when you’re living in silence, every sound, even if it’s barely audible, will sound loud. And because every sound sounds loud, the designers thereof had to be very thorough in the design process. Luckily for them, the hard work paid off, since the sound design of every object was done incredibly well and it caused you to be more immersed in the film. The fact that every small sound is accentuated, gives the film already an on the edge feeling. It’s like in every cliché horror film will turn dead silent right in front of a jump scare and you can exactly predict when it’s going to come, though, in this one, it’s just the constant dread that’s there, the constant wait for something scary to suddenly pop up. There are a few jump scares thrown in there, but the majority of the film supports on generating tension by silence. The guy responsible for all of this on the edge of your seat-level excitement is none other than John Krasinski.
John Krasinski brought everything he’s got to this film, both as an actor, but also as a director. The visual storytelling in A Quiet Place was quite phenomenal. Due to the lack of dialogue, Krasinski was forced to tell his story visually, which he did really well. The performances also helped to drive the story forward, but more on those later, though it was the visual storytelling that really did the trick. To have it all work out well, the images you tell your story with should look half decent. And, did the visuals look great in A Quiet Place? Of course they did, otherwise, I wouldn’t’ve spent so much time building up to the question or even ask it in the first place. The 35mm cinematography was able to capture the night sequences beautifully because every shot was light incredibly well. In the latter half of the film, red lighting takes over, which contrasted nicely with the black skies. It gave the third act a very distinct, beautiful, and eerie look.
Krasinski also paced his film really well, which caused for some really great moments of tension, though the previously named fantastic score and well-crafted sound design helped with this too. The only issue that I have with his direction is that the layout of the farm could’ve been done better at times. It was only at the end of the film that I realized where a certain building was, even though the characters had visited the place before. The attention to detail in A Quiet Place was also really good, which made the world the characters inhabited feel more real and it gave the film some more character. It really made you believe that these characters were able to survive for as long as they had by adapting in the ways they did: walking barefoot, laying down sand paths, eating on leaves… Though this is a double-edged sword because at other times in the film, it wasn’t so focused on getting the details right and it often forgot its own rules, which could lead to possible plot holes.
Krasinski’s acting chops in this film are probably the best he’s given in his career. I mostly know him as the paper salesman named Jim Halpert, which he played with comedic purposes. While there were some dramatic moments here and there where he was able to shine, his role in The Office mostly limited him to show off his comedy skills. In A Quiet Place, however, he shows that he’s not only capable of being the funniest guy around but also of being the biggest badass in the room. Krasinski nailed being a total badass on the one hand, while on the other also playing the paternal role his kids need in this situation. He was charismatic, caring and likable, everything you’d want from a father, which he was all able to give. He was able to convey a lot of emotion with little to no dialogue, which goes for the entire cast, though it was Emily Blunt who’s probably the best one out of the bunch. It’s hard to communicate your emotions without any dialogue or any sounds at all, though everyone was able to do this incredibly well, even the kids. The deaf girl gave an authentic and fantastic performance and the actor of the son was great too, but he was surrounded by even better performers which made him fall into the shadow of the others. Also, I really liked how Krasinski showcased Millicent Simmonds’ deafness by drowning out all of the ambient sounds, which makes you realize how much ambient sound there really is. This gave the film a nice sense of sound and showcased the contrast really well. Krasinski used her deafness to its fullest potential to create some intense scenes.
The characters were developed in a similar trend as they were in Night of the Living Dead; they’re thrown in an absurd situation and from their actions we get to know who they are and how they function. It gets you invested into the characters and makes you wonder what they’re going to do next. I was constantly wondering how the family would solve their next problem. Unlike Night of the Living Dead, A Quiet Place doesn’t entirely support on that technique. There’s a bit at the beginning that sets up conflict for later, which added to the dynamic between two characters, for example. The film’s also more focused on developing the character’s relationships, rather than develop them individually, as it’s really a film about family. It’s about how a family tries to survive in these horrid situations while also keeping their mutual ties intact.
I also really liked that the characters were quite smart; they were always able to find creative solutions to the obstacles thrown at them, and it was fun watching them figuring those things out. Well, the fact that they’re having another baby was really fucking stupid. Even though it did cause some nail-biting scenes, it still didn’t make a lot of sense to have a baby when you’re forced to be nearly silent to avoid instant death. But other than that, they were quite inventive.
A Quiet Place was a really well-made film; the soundtrack was phenomenal and the sound design too was excellent, the acting was great, the visual storytelling was fantastic, the way Krasinski was able to generate tension was great and the cinematography was quite gorgeous. But the film’s not perfect; the attention to detail could lead to some plot holes and while the characters were mostly smart, there’s one major decision that makes them look really stupid.