James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Cole Clay // Film Critic
A QUIET PLACE
A genre thriller is best kept simple and to the point. Setting up a list of rules, a novel logic, or satisfying trope could be the perfect prescription to make a genuine crowd-pleaser. Filmmaker John Krasinski’s A QUIET PLACE adequately executes a formula made for the big screen, with a premise that thrills and supplies compassion for humanity and the film’s characters.
The film follows a casual, everyday family led by Lee (Krasinski, also co-writer and director) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt, who’s also Krasinski’s real-life wife) and their two pre-teen children (Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds). They are in a dystopian setting where we quickly learn if you speak, you die. Krasinski quickly shows his hand with a show-stopping cold opener that depicts a tragic event in the family’s history. He tells us instantly this is a controlled mood-piece worth settling into.
After a year into hiding the family have set up camp on a massive farm they may have already occupied in the years prior to the arachnid-like creatures taking over the world. Krasinski’s skills behind the camera shine as he takes a premise that could be treated with a B-movie style zaniness and regards the threat with reverence to generate a moving story about the anxieties that come with protecting your family. The love he put into the making of this film is palpable. By Krasinski partnering with his spouse, the duo clearly have a deep understanding of one another and how deep love can run.
But first and foremost, A QUIET PLACE never skips on the exhilirating elements and side-plots that are paid off with gleefully painful results. Krasinski borrows a “Spielbergian” sense of direction in the way he handles his child actors, without dipping into schmaltz. Jupe and Simmonds are treated with the respect they deserve as actors. The two adults never condescend, only guide the two children. Simmonds, a deaf actress, portrays a fully realized character with psychology and motivations that feel organic to a maturing child at that age. The use of American Sign Language is featured heavily and portrayed with elegance that so many filmmakers willfully ignore.
There have been comments that this is a left-turn for Krasinski as an actor and as a director, and it is in many ways. He became a near-household name on THE OFFICE for silently smirking at the camera. Krasinski has never been better as a film actor conveying the situation with only crinkles in his forehead and the sigh of a dad with one last hope to save his family. He and Blunt find beauty in the slight mannerisms.
So many lesser genre films have the wife on the phone, waiting at home for her beau to safely burst through the front door. In the case of Blunt, she spends a large portion of the film at home and pregnant, yet that aspect and duty is held up as a burden that serves as a purpose larger than a lousy plot thread.
A QUIET PLACE is not without its logistical flaws that one could pick apart if you’re really looking, but most will want to enjoy the tender thrills thrown at you by an emerging filmmaker. The best horror serves as an emotional, social allegory that can relate to the world in a timeless manner. Here, we get a bottle cap tight piece of filmmaking with a remarkable score by Marco Beltrami that amplifies the emotion caught on camera. While the characters on screen won’t utter more than a whisper, you’re guaranteed to hear a few screams from across the theater.
A QUIET PLACE opens nationwide on Friday.