(US - 2018)
Directed by John Krasinski. Written by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski. Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, Leon Russom. (PG-13, 90 mins)
Even in the most tightly-written screenplays, there's going to be things you can pick at and call a "plot hole," though most people using that term rarely do so correctly. A QUIET PLACE isn't exactly airtight in its execution, with a couple of head-scratching "plot conveniences" or "plot inconsistencies," let's call them, but it's a chilling, visceral, stomach-in-knots experience in horror moviegoing that we just don't see much anymore. It's PG-13 and the gore is minimal and fleeting, but A QUIET PLACE knows how to manipulate an audience and in the process, director/co-writer/star John Krasinski (yes, that John Krasinski) creates one of the most fascinating social experiments in recent memory. Can you recall the last time you went to a see a movie in a packed theater on its opening weekend and the audience--the entire audience--behaved perfectly? No talking, no phones lit up, no loud snacking, only an occasional cough and some relieved exhaling after any number of well-executed suspense set pieces (that bit with the nail will have you holding your breath with dread). I don't even think anyone got up to use the restroom. A QUIET PLACE dives right into its story in medias res (the opening title card reads "Day 89") and essentially conditions its audience to go along because no one wants to be the asshole who breaks the silence and ruins it for everyone. I won't go so far as to call Krasinski the DGA equivalent of Ivan Pavlov or Stanley Milgram, but let this film serve as proof that civility and courtesy can be part of present-day multiplex attendance. Nevermind the Oscars or the Golden Globes--Krasinski's accomplishment here practically qualifies him for a Nobel Peace Prize.
BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN, which is about as watchable as you'd expect a David Foster Wallace adaptation to be, and 2016's little-seen drama THE HOLLARS), Krasinski graciously leaves the biggest dramatic moments to his offscreen wife Blunt and an impressive Simmonds, whose character is reaching that age where headstrong rebellion is innate and she's tired of the unintentional marginalization by her father due to her disability and his possibly passive-aggressive blaming her for the youngest child's death (she handed the toy back to him after Dad took it away, but this kid does at least three other things in the first two minutes that could've gotten them all killed). Almost every thought and emotion has to be communicated silently in A QUIET PLACE, and it's a gamble that pays off. The audience was with this from the first ominous moment until the crowd-pleasing final shot. Even in big tentpole movies that make $200 million in their opening weekend, you'll have people talking, texting, checking Instagram, Snapchatting, fidgeting, getting up, walking around, and being generally insufferable pains in the ass. In an era where the viability of cinemas is constantly in question due to streaming, VOD, and ever-changing distribution platforms, A QUIET PLACE is the kind of communal moviegoing experience that serves as a welcome reminder of how satisfying seeing a good, scary movie with a equally captivated audience can be.