Turns out Jim’s one hell of a director.
Yes, John Krasinski, known for playing Jim Halpert in the U.S. version of The Office and who has been working hard to expand his resume away from comedy (he led Michael Bay’s war drama 13 Hours, for example), has officially positioned himself as a standout filmmaker. Impressive horror-thriller A Quiet Place marks Krasinski’s third feature as director and co-writer, having previously helmed comedic films The Hollars and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, as well as co-written Gus Van Sant’s 2012 film Promised Land.
The basic plotline (from a story by co-writers Scott Beck and Bran Woods) is relatively straightforward: a family endeavours to survive in a world overrun by monsters that use sound to hunt their prey. There’s more, of course, but I’ll stay tight-lipped on the details for your own good. On paper, perhaps there isn’t much here that is particularly groundbreaking or “new” – some moments bring to mind elements from M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs and Mike Flanagan’s Hush – but Krasinski’s taut, assured work as director and the care placed on tone and texture makes this almost feel like a novelty among the noisy popcorn blockbusters constantly crowding the megaplexes.
Within minutes, the film’s cinematography and carefully crafted sound design and score (composer Marco Beltrami, providing precise work) has you captured, watching every purposeful angle nervously and barely wanting to shuffle in your chair less you disturb the soundscape. And once the intro reaches its startling end, it’s clear that you’re in for a film that is not afraid to get ruthless when it has to. And that’s not just referring to the film’s nerve-wracking, visceral thrills; A Quiet Place will catch you by surprise emotionally, grabbing your empathy as you witness this poor family trying to make it to the next day.
Krasinski’s impressive work behind the camera deserves attention, but so does his strong, smartly underplayed performance. He is fantastic as an exhausted, somewhat hardened, yet undeniably loving father doing what he can to keep his family alive. The always-great Emily Blunt has some of the film’s more demanding sequences, and she tackles it all with bravado, running the gamut from mournful, to physical agony, to fear and determination with utmost skill.
As the children, Noah Jupe (Suburbicon, Wonder) and Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) are simply superb, depicting their fractured childhood with a touch of sadness, earnestness, and innocence, whilst carrying the type of strength a child would need to survive in such trying circumstances. Krasinski, Blunt, Jupe and Simmonds are perfect leads, showcasing emotive performances that don’t rely on much dialogue to steer character arcs and narrative.
This is lean filmmaking, all excess and needless cinematic fat trimmed to provide audiences with a muscular, tightly structured piece of cinema. You’ll be drawn in by the very welcome level of heart, just also prepare to have your heart in your throat, particularly as the film heads into its eventful, sweat-inducing final third. And without wanting to give away much about the film’s monsters, kudos to the team for designing creatures that serve as nightmare fuel, while still ensuring they feel credible within this world.
A Quiet Place is the type of film that comes with every piece calibrated for maximum effect, demanding you watch, silently, as it all plays out. This, ladies and gentlemen, is brilliant filmmaking.