There is not a word of verbally spoken dialogue in A Quiet Place for approximately forty minutes of its spare 95 (less without the credits). There is dialogue, to be clear, but much of it is conveyed through Sign Language, because in the film's apocalyptic future, an invasion of some sort has wiped out entire metropolitan areas. Newspaper headlines, likely months old, provide a little insight: This alien race is attracted by noise of any measurable volume above a whisper, as our central family learns in the hardest way possible before the title even shows up onscreen.
It is important to mention the lack of audible dialogue for so long because we, as audience members, are accustomed to the ways movies work. This is certainly the longest at one time that we go without hearing someone speak, and it requires an enormous amount of patience on the part of co-writer/director John Krasinski, who announces himself immediately and decisively as a major talent to watch in this genre. The filmmaker's ability to build suspense is formidable, and it helps that composer Marco Baltrami keeps his minimalist score almost entirely in the background or, sometimes, completely absent.
The tension is heightened tremendously as a result, and the exercise in building on that tension is considerably effective. It's also a testament to the screenplay by Krasinski, Bryan Woods, and Scott Beck that they devise genuinely terrifying set pieces as those building blocks. At the start, though, is a clear and concise set-up of the stakes, which are that no one is safe. Before the title arrives, that family loses the youngest of its three children to the monster. It's such an easily avoidable situation, too, involving a toy rocket ship that, when batteries are put in, lights up and produces the noise of a simulated launch.
Several months later, the parents in this family (played by Krasinski and Emily Blunt) are expecting another third child. Many questions arise from this scenario, which cannot be the smartest one at this particular time in their survival attempt. Labor is the opposite of quiet, as are infants (and, to be frank, one wonders about the logistics of the conception of that child, which isn't always going to be the quietest situation, either). Why, then, would they want to bring a child into this world? This is one of those questions where a bit of trust in the audience to accept an unlikely and dangerous scenario is necessary and, in this particular case, welcome.
In theory, the justification is easy: They each are guilty for not doing enough to protect their children within their power as parents. That is the one job which they are asked to do, and we learn that the job before this end-of-Earth scenario probably wasn't the smoothest in the first place. Their eldest daughter (played by Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, giving them and us a practical reason for the Sign Language mentioned in the first paragraph (The actress, in her second performance within a year to announce a rising talent, is also deaf). This adds an interesting dynamic in the fright sequences whenever we enter her headspace: If she cannot hear, she can only do so much to control how loud her actions are. Indeed, when she hoofs it alone at one point, the heightened tension is nearly unbearable, as is a scene where one of the monsters lurks behind her (a generic set-up with that hearing difficulty an unknown quantity introduced to shake it up a bit).
Those set-ups are often similarly generic, though there is something to be said for the way Krasinski adds a few conceptual layers to them. A particularly virtuoso sequence provides three struggles for the mother to remain quiet, for instance: a pesky nail, a monster drawn to the sound of the object she drops when she steps on the nail, and the miracle of childbirth. Meanwhile, her husband and their middle child (played by Noah Jupe) must distract the creature. The editing (by Christopher Tellefsen) is particularly superb in this scene, as well as one that leads into the climax, as three situations converge into one memorable pay-off.
We might learn the names of these characters, but they aren't of any importance. This could be any family, yet the performances from the actors playing these characters are uniformly strong enough that the emotional content connecting us to this particular family is affecting. Krasinski and Blunt, a couple in real life, obviously draw from their natural chemistry, and Simmonds and Jupe avoid precociousness, proving themselves up to the difficult challenge of remaining quiet for great swaths of the run time. A Quiet Place eventually gives into formula in its final minutes, offering a loud confrontation with the monster, but by then, it has so thoroughly proven itself worthy as a genre effort that such an issue barely registers. This movie is the real deal.
Emily Blunt (Evelyn), John Krasinski (Lee), Millicent Simmonds (Regan), Noah Jupe (Marcus), Cade Woodward (Beau), Leon Russom (Man in the Woods).
Directed by John Krasinski and written by Krasinski, Bryan Woods, and Scott Beck.
Rated PG-13 (terror, bloody images).
Released on April 6, 2018.