NOTE: I MEANT TO PUBLISH THIS ON THE REAL 25 APRIL, WHEN I SAW THE MOVIE. OOPS. THE FINALS DID GO WELL, AND I GOT A 3.3 OVERALL FOR THE SEMESTER — NOT BAD! AND, THE NETWORKING EVENT LED TO A NEW PART-TIME MARKETING JOB FOR BEER.
25 April 2018
It’s almost finals week! So many projects. So many tests. It’s been a good semester, lots of learning, but damn has it been tough. I’ll keep pushing through strong to the end! I have a networking event tonight with Network After Work at the Dailly Refresher, one of my favorite bars, so that should be fun and productive.
Anyway, even in these busy days, I’ve made time for movies. Most recently, on Saturday, I saw A Quiet Place, starring John Krasinsky and his wife, Emily Blunt.
I loved it. This movie exemplifies that Horror movies can be good movies, with skillful cinematography, deeply human characters and themes, and smart writing. The sound design, of course, is one of the stars of the show, and it warms my heart to see a nearly-silent film earn such box office results as well as critical praise. A Quiet Place put me on the edge of my seat and kept me there for a delightful, suspenseful, heartfelt, heartwrenching, and thoughtful, 1.5 hours,
Basic Spoiler Free Concept:
A Quiet Place is a science fiction thriller/drama/horror movie. It follows a young, rural, family struggling to stay safe and maintain some sort of normalcy in a post-apocalyptic America. This America has been almost entirely depopulated by a mysterious race of monsters which one glimpsed newspaper headline describes as “Death Angels.” These monsters, who serve as the film’s collective antagonist, are entirely blind, and navigate their world and hunt for prey entirely through a system of exceptionally strong hearing and echolocation. They’re strong, they’re incredibly fast, and they are essentially impervious to seemingly any type of physical weapon.
In this world, making any sound rising above the low background decibels of wind, falling leaves, or babbling brooks summons the attention of the nearest Death Angels, who will arrive and destroy/possibly devour the source of the disturbance in an astonishingly short time.
Our intrepid survivors, who include father (Krasinsky,) mother (Blunt) and their three kids (Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, and Cade Woodward,) have stayed alive by adapting every facet of behavior to the alien threat: they eschew shoes entirely, walking everywhere with carefully placed bare feet; they manipulate objects (such as when cooking, cleaning, or fixing objects on their farmstead) with great precision and gentelness; they go so far as using paint to denote the non-creaky floorboards of their home; and most importantly, they communicate with each other 99% of the time through American Sign Language. (ASL.)
There are other people still alive out there, but communicating with them is tough, even using morse code on Krasinsky’s character’s HAM radio. The family is essentially alone in what has become a wilderness, and despite their handy adaptations and ability in procuring food, they remain continuously vulnerable to a single shattering of a plate, cluttering of a cupboard, or instinctive exclamation.
And with the couple expecting a new family member on the way, their vulnerability gets that much more real …
Characters and Acting:
Like most people, I know Krasinsky best for his comedic role as Jim on The Office. He showed his chops as a more mature dramatic role here, displaying great range as a likable, struggling, and loving father and husband. The fact that his acting, like everyone’s in this movie, is mostly non-verbal makes the performance even more impressive.
Emily Blunt and Jon Krasinsky together portray a deeply romantic couple, coming together for each other and their children in some of the most horrifying situationss imaginable. Blunt’s performance, on reflection, is my favorite in the film: her tender love for Krasinsky and their children adds such humanity to this apocalyptic world, as does her indomitable determination and resiliency, which is ever haunted by loss and the fear of further loss.
The kids are great too, especially eldest child Regan Abbots, played by Millicent Simmonds; one of the few deaf actors I’ve seen in a movie. Her performance feels refreshingly honest, real, in her conflict over her past actions, and her strained relationship with her father. It’s a joy, as someone who attends a college with a major deaf population, to see a deaf character, portrayed by a deaf actor, being so expressive through face, gesture, and natively-fluent ASL. I also loved seeing cochlear implants (functional, broken, or somewhere inbetween …) being a major artifact of her character, and of the film’s plot.
The most memorable Horror and Thriller movies use their soundtracks to enhance the danger their characters face, build the viewer’s suspense, and act as an auditory embodiment of the visual terror on screen. Think of the ominously escalating Jaws theme, or the screeching, manic violins of Psycho, or the heart-pounding theme of serial killer Michael Myers.
In A Quiet Place, the soundtrack emphatically does more by doing, and being less. Krasinsky uses silence the way Spielberg or Hitchcock use music. Knowing the “rules” of the movie’s monsters, we as the audience share the characters’ tip-toeing, anxiety-inducing exploration of abandoned drug stores and woodland paths. The movie quickly trains us to dread any sudden sound rising above a soft rustle. There is background noise, of course: the wind blows through the leaves and the crops, woodland critters occasionally skitter here and there, rivers run somewhere in the distance.
But the Silence is the defining force of the film’s world, brutally enforced by the dreaad-creatures the characters scarcely understand the origin of, much less can identify an exploitable weakness in. Silence is the characters’ open air prison. Silence is the final fate of a world depopulated of human civilization in less than a single year.
Whenever the Silence stops, we as the audience freeze, perk up our ears, and grip our seats, wondering how, or if, our admirable survivors will get out of this one.
There is music, don’t worry. It’s simple, and it creeps in, here and there, complementing some of the genuinely pretty rural scenes, and pumping up the intensity of scenes when the Death Angels lurk. But music is always the junior partner to the silence in A Quiet Place, and that junior role is where it plays best.