We’re dumped right into the middle of the story in A Quiet Place. It’s about three months after something apocalyptic has happened, and we’re with a family taking items from an abandoned grocery store. But despite the fact that there’s clearly no one else around, they’re moving, and searching, and communicating, without… making… a sound.
Before long—or if we’ve already seen the previews—we learn that the reason they’re so quiet is they’re being tracked by some kind of monstrous creatures that hunt by hearing. These creatures seem to have wiped out most of humanity, but as long as our family moves without making a noise, they can’t be found.
And this opening scene is extraordinarily effective. The movie’s director and star, John Krasinski, stages it almost silently, other than the occasional pitter-patter of bare feet on linoleum, and this builds extreme tension. We don’t know what’s happening, or why, we only know that everything is so quiet. I wanted to slap myself for chewing my popcorn so loudly.
In fact, this opening is so good that I was disappointed that Krasinski didn’t have the courage of his own convictions—while the rest of the movie is, of course, focused on this family trying to survive while not being heard, much of it is also covered by a musical score. And while music is usually used to build suspense, here it actually releases the tension. The initial lack of sound is so foreign to us as filmgoers that the music settles us into knowing that we’re just watching a movie.
If this were my only complaint, A Quiet Place would have been close to a masterpiece. And I did find it compelling—as long as I didn’t think about what was happening. When I did, it felt contrived—everything is designed just to shove our heroes into various scenarios that put them in jeopardy… WHICH IS JUST FINE as long as your goal is simply to make a fairly decent monster movie. And if that’s what Krasinski had in mind, then I can’t fault him. That’s what he’s made.
It just could have been so much more.