Last week I talked about new and exciting filmmaking voices making themselves heard. This week I was thrilled to witness someone else announce themselves as a talent to watch, and I must confess it was not someone I expected. John Krasinski, best known as Jim Halpert from the American version of The Office, co-writes, directs, and stars in A Quiet Place, and it’s absolutely terrific.
A Quiet Place imagines a world with one very simple problem: it’s been overrun by blind monsters with really good hearing. Like reeeeeally good hearing. The script is high concept writing at its absolute best; take a neat idea, and then ask, “What would it look like if this actually happened?” The film takes place primarily about a year after the invasion, with our protagonists, a likeable family, fully adapted to this crazy version of Earth. They eat only with their hands to avoid the clinking of cutlery, have trails of sand all around their farm to muffle the sound of their footsteps, and play Monopoly with cloth game tokens to avoid the familiar click-clack of that little iron making its way around the board. A huge part of how they’ve made it this far is that they are all fluent in American Sign Language, due to their daughter, Regan, being deaf. Regan is played by Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actor, who turns in an excellent performance as an adolescent haunted by a decision she makes in the film’s shocking opening scene.
Krasinski, who is by all accounts a wonderful human being, had this to say about Simmonds casting in a January 30th interview with IGN: “I knew I needed a girl who was deaf for the role of the daughter, who is deaf in the movie. And for many reasons, I didn’t want a non-deaf actress pretending to be deaf. Most importantly though, because a deaf actress would help my knowledge and my understanding of the situations tenfold. I wanted someone who lives it and who could teach me about it on set.” A Quiet Place demonstrates that there is literally no good reason to keep hiring able bodied people to portray people with disabilities – Hollywood take note.
This film also demonstrates the power of an original story, well told. There was brief consideration given to making this a Cloverfield movie, but this idea was mercifully axed. I normally try to avoid reading about how movies are doing at the box office, as it usually just makes me sad, but 2018 seems to be an exception to that. Black Panther is deservedly doing record numbers, and A Quiet Place decimated Ready Player One this weekend, earning $50 million domestically. Again, Hollywood take note! I saw this film in a full theatre, and it was both amusing and heartwarming how hard everyone was trying to stay as silent as the characters on screen. The man next to me made the unfortunate choice of Mike and Ikes for his candy, and after a few attempts at sliding the hard sweets out of the box, he simply gave up out of respect for his fellow film goers, and the film itself.
Emily Blunt is great in everything, and this film is no exception. She plays Evelyn with warmth, resourcefulness, and humour, which only serves to make it all the more unbearable when her character is put in harm’s way. Krasinski is good as Lee, but is ever so slightly overshadowed by his real-life partner Emily Blunt’s mastery of acting. Rounding out the cast is Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward as Lee and Evelyn’s other two children. They are both entirely believable as people too young to fully understand the horror of the world around them. The editing by Christopher Tellefsen is top notch, and gives the film a sense of momentum that never lets up. The script by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and Krasinski is a masterclass in minimalism, pacing, and suspense. My only real quibble is scene halfway into the movie that is perhaps a tad heavy handed, but in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the film.
A Quiet Place is horror filmmaking at its best. The characters are smart, the monsters are unstoppable, and the setting is so well established you feel like you’re really there. Krasinski reveals here that he can do so much more than execute perfectly timed glances at the camera. This is an incredible film, and I cannot wait for what he does next.