3 (out of 4)
As star, co-writer and director of A Quiet Place, it’d be too easy to praise John Krasinski as a rising talent. First off, the story was written by his fellow screenwriters Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, and there just ain’t enough dialogue that wouldn’t have been part of the rough draft. And as consistently suspenseful as the film is, Krasinski excels more in convincing us he’s a real dramatic actor than a blossoming filmmaker. In short, this movie would have been hard to fuck up.
With a monster movie premise this elemental and a screenplay so trim, not much can or does go wrong in terms of rewarding the target audience of A Quiet Place with exactly what they’re looking for. The drama of a family surviving a post-apocalyptic hellscape plagued with sound-sensitive creatures writes itself. Krasinski and his real wife Emily Blunt star as parents of three who lose their youngest son in the film's brutal opening scene. Years after, the couple decides the best way to protect themselves and their remaining children from gruesome deaths is to bring a screaming newborn into a world where noise gets you killed.
As entertainment, the tension is frequent and visceral once the story takes hold. Even though it goes in the expected directions, it's gratifying to see a film sustain a prolonged and effective climax for a good 40 minutes. A Quiet Place work best the faster it moves, as Krasinksi's film can then momentarily prevent the urge to stick your finger through the script's numerous plot holes.
In a genre as diluted as horror, it’s hard not to get excited when something remotely superior to garbage comes along (Truth or Dare anyone?), yet the critical masses couldn't help but overpraise A Quiet Place despite its qualities. The relative absence of sound legitimizes jump scares for more respectable intentions, but there is not enough emphasis on silence or interesting scoring and sound design. As new parents themselves, Krasinski and Blunt lend their characters some identifiable gravitas – and the child actors perform well also – but the characterization and emotional beats of A Quiet Place are flimsy and unsubstantial. There’s the obvious underlying allegory for parenting at the film's center, but these family themes are old hat with character traits this simple.
Still, an ingeniously succinct ending – even though it leaves room for potential sequels – left me pleased with what was left to the imagination. With no clear backstory or rules of acceptable noise, it's best think as little as possible about A Quiet Place in order to enjoy the fullness of its copious excitement.
To keep it brief...