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A QUIET PLACE - Shhhhhhhhhh! It's only OK (Read 106 times)
Apr 21st, 2018 at 4:27pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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Note: Spoilers are only at the very end)

One of the benefits of the short story form (whether written or filmed) is that one can build a tale out of a single thought, concept or idea, unburdened by having to explain every detail and nuance. Director John Krasinski and his co-writers Bryan Woods  & Scott Beck smartest instincts here were to keep A QUIET PLACE as brief as it is (90 minutes including credits), but, it's just long enough that serious fundamental questions arise except for the most undemanding of viewers.

We are plunged right into Day 89 of some sort of alien invasion that has seemingly wiped out most of mankind. A small rural family immediately comes face to face with the creatures in a quick and brutal confrontation. Flash forward over a year later and the family is still hunkered down in their farm home. Little is ever explained about the beings save for the fact that they hunt through sound rather than vision. The only other backstory information is conveyed through some newspaper clippings and a few scrawled notes. The parents (Emily Blunt and Krasinski) can only communicate with their kids (Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds - who was so expressive in last year's criminally under-seen WONDERSTRUCK) via sign language, lip reading and the faintest of whispers. Simmonds' character Regan is also deaf (as is the actress herself). 

From this point onward, A QUIET PLACE is one long survival sequence, juiced up with a hoary and logically HIGHLY questionable plot twist (see Spoilers* section at very bottom). Still, within the minimalist screenplay, the central quartet of actors is able to convey the family dynamics in an effective manner. Suspense is dutifully built even as quibbles build in the viewer's mind along the way.

Shooting in 35mm, Danish DP Charlotte Bruus Christensen gives the film a gritty lived in look that wouldn't have been as effective in glossy digital. The sound and film editing are also spot on. Indeed, it's been a minor miracle that a film where silence and slow-building suspense is so critical that today's infamous ADD audiences have turned this into a major hit. To have fully taken the premise to its logical artistic extension, the movie should have had no musical score at all. But, that, it seems, was a place too far for Krasinski and Paramount Pictures (we need our make 'em jump in the seats with a loud musical cue cliche, don't we?). A minimal score could have worked. Unfortunately, Marco Beltrami turns in another of his hack-work compositions (the one decent theme can charitably be termed an 'homage' to a certain popular Arvo Part composition). Again, on a purely artistic level, no music should have been included, but, Beltrami's scoring is actively detrimental to the film. The Production Design and Special Effects are fine.

In the end, one's appreciation of A QUIET PLACE will depend on how caught up one gets with family's struggle. For others, even an hour and a half will be enough for those nagging questions to catch up at some point. A QUIET PLACE is a decent bit of sci-fi suspense, but, a few more (well thought out) layers could have made it much more.

If we showed this at the 'thon would it get the "Shhhhhhhhhh!" treatment the superior QUIET EARTH got??

SPOILERS


The main sticking point for many is the introduction of a baby in the context of a story where any loud sound is near certain doom. Because of what happens in the opening teaser, there's a certain 'life goes on' explanation for the pregnancy, but, it still plays like an artificial (and poorly thought out) plot turn. If the filmmakers really felt it was necessary to amp up the suspense, the family could have found the baby outside (as with their discovery of the old man). But, even more fundamentally, the idea that creatures where vision is limited wouldn't have also attuned ALL of their other senses (besides sound) is hard to accept scientifically. And, the idea that after 470+ days, the creatures wouldn't have figured out that there was a nexus of activity around that one house is unbelievable. And, the finale? Risible. None of the great world's scientists would have thought of that? Here again, a short film (or TV episode) would have had the benefit of less time to think about such matters. The last shot is an unforgivable sop to the yahoo instincts of the crowd (and, utterly not in keeping with the sober tone of the rest of the piece).
 
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