Film Review: A Quiet Place, Day One | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, July 15th, 2024  

A Quiet Place: Day One

Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Michael Sarnoski

Jul 09, 2024 Web Exclusive
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Silence is golden in this three-peat from the producers of one of the best horror film series in recent memory.

It can be easy for a franchise like A Quiet Place to milk its simple premise, riding on the coattails of the features that came before it, and yet somehow this movie succeeds and in some ways surpasses its source material. Each successive film layers itself upon the foundation of those previously released. While it’s not necessary to watch the other movies, it would serve to enrich the viewer’s experience. New York serves as a compelling backdrop to establish how humanity lost its battle with nightmarish Creatures. This cinematic experience elevates the struggle of its human characters adding nuance, depth, and great care to telling a story about two people whose ingenuity in times of great hardship brings out a wealth of compassion in an otherwise hopeless situation.

Our setting is shifted from the chronologically later films by exchanging the quiet vistas and abandoned rustic settings for a roaring, compacted, and vibrant city. The opening tagline of the film explains that New York City produces decibels akin to a constant scream and anyone familiar with John Krasinski’s earlier entries would understand how truly foreboding this is. We follow Samira “Sam” (Nyong’o) during the latter stages of her fight with cancer in hospice care with one of the most loyal cats in cinema. Sam spends time with her fellow patients, waxing poetic about her lot in life and her only goal of getting a slice of that NY pizza once more. After a quick trip to the burgh, things immediately go haywire as Creatures rain down from the sky with fiery roars while burning explosions rock the streets. Sam is thrown into a life-and-death situation running into characters such as Henri (Djimon Hounsou), who was already established in prior films, and a brand new co-lead, Eric (Joseph Quinn).

The plot goes above and beyond unveiling the unique challenges faced by Sam and Eric, who are out of their depth navigating this deadly war-torn megalopolis. New York, even in complete silence, is a minefield of potential noise that keeps our heroes moving in a constant fight for survival. Survival hinges on a bizarre and seemingly impractical desire from its main character that transitions into a nuanced and relatable hope to grasp the potential of one’s last days. The tale speaks to the need for human companionship as the world crashes down around, revealing the lengths people will go to help a complete stranger in times of great duress.

A Quiet Place: Day One hinges on the acting skills and chemistry of its two leads, placing a unique challenge for expressive communication in silence upon all involved. Nyong’o and Quinn’s moments together are as layered and impactful as one could hope for with both of them artfully establishing chemistry for two complete strangers. Nyong’o has an ability for very soulful facial expressions which likely led to her Oscar win nearly a decade ago and those very same instincts are on full display for the duration of the 99-minute runtime. Nyong’o’s performance evokes a similar feeling to the film Melancholia where director Lars Von Trier attempted to explore how those of us affected by depression or loss are often the most calm during times of great tragedy. Nyong’o communicates fear, longing, sadness, acceptance, and reluctant joy all with simple articulation and the film is greater for it. Her casting was nothing short of perfect.

Joseph Quinn breaks the film hero archetype as a lost, vulnerable foreigner in a city he is unfamiliar with. Quinn’s Eric is unrecognizable from Stranger Things’ loveable Eddie Munson, a man trying to overcome his fears to help his new friend. His traumatized and frightful nature provides an excellent obstacle for his inevitable growth as a hero. Together the actors carry a distinct subtlety of understanding and compassion for one another. Similarly, Hounsou’s return as Henri contains a great variation of care and conflict through the actions he is forced to take despite his brief moments during the picture. His inclusion is a nice touch to tie the films together respectfully and organically.

The natural progression of the film and the general feel of foreboding enmeshed with hope is a testament to Michael Sarnoski’s spectacular direction. Sarnoski frames most shots with importance and focus. There was even a moment where Quinn is seen holding an Octavia Butler novel, a beautiful and elusive reference to her now-recognized influence over American Science fiction as a whole. The ambiance of an empty world is exchanged for a city in immediate chaos. The gore as always is subtle and utilized to enrich the atmosphere, so most audience members won’t have to worry about getting queasy. Our Creatures, now on full display, are granted more screen time which is also a welcome change. Sarnoski embraces a great deal of sound design to rivet the audience during moments where the tension can be cut with a knife. Yet, there are wondrous moments of tranquility to alleviate the horrifying silence which speaks to the flexibility of the director and their team. It’s shocking that this is Sarnoski’s second feature film to date after 2020’s critically acclaimed Pig. One can suspect he has a vibrant future in Hollywood, especially after helming an entry in a series as noteworthy as this.

A Quiet Place: Day One is a worthwhile cinematic experience for horror and non-horror fans alike. The action, sound design, and leads are compelling, together creating a film that is a spectacular sum of its parts. The growth potential of this ever-expanding franchise continues to fascinate even without its original cast. It strives to reach beyond and embrace the human element like some of the best modern horror films before it. (www.paramountpictures.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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