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A QUIET PLACE: Not so quiet after all


A QUIET PLACE

By JOSEPH W. SMITH III, Sun-Gazette Correspondent

Having been told “A Quiet Place” was scary, I was surprised to find the first 30 minutes so slow, sedate and … well, quiet.

Another half-hour later, with dread and panic spiking through the theater, I was telling myself, “I’m glad it’s only 90 minutes long -- ’cause I can’t take much more of this!”

Yes, the new thriller starring Emily Blunt and John Krasinski is frightening. It’s a somewhat old-fashioned monster movie with a bare-bones story and a simple central conceit; yet it feels consistently fresh and alive because of its expert acting, direction and cinematography -- not to mention its unique plot:

The United States -- and perhaps the whole world -- seems to have been taken over by fast, fierce, murderous creatures along the lines of “Alien.” As it happens, these monsters are blind; but they also have extraordinary hearing; and so -- as the title suggests -- every survivor must be very, very quiet. All time time. Or else die a swift, certain, savage death.

Krasinski and Blunt, who are married in real life, head up a farm family struggling to navigate this noiseless new existence -- with the added wrinkle that their daughter (Millicent Simmonds, “Wonderstruck”) is deaf. And Mom is pregnant.

The low-key first act focuses on how the family has adjusted its daily routine to total silence, accounting for its food supply and occasional restlessness while establishing that at least a few other humans are alive as well.

Things get hairy when the family members are all separated just as Mom is going into labor; no one familiar with childbirth will want to imagine having a baby without making a sound. And noise-wise, of course, things aren’t going to get better once the baby actually arrives.

The movie’s script -- co-authored by Krasinski, who also makes his directorial debut -- is excellent. That’s a strange thing to say about a film with so little dialog; but the three co-writers really know how to pile up the crises -- till the viewer is actively squirming in his seat. And occasionally jumping out of it.

An escalating-crisis plotline can feel forced, but it never does here, and I’m not sure why. Could be Krasinski’s assured direction; could be the uniformly first-rate cast. Blunt is sensational, and Simmonds -- who is actually deaf -- ought to have a long career.

The movie hones down its scope and ambition by providing no exposition at the outset -- and with a conclusion that’s abrupt and open-ended, yet somehow satisfactory. Like so much else here -- tiny cast, modest length, downbeat title -- this gives “Quiet Place” a sense of not trying too hard.

It’s a small film with a big bang. Around 50 million bangs, in fact. That’s the film’s haul for its first weekend -- on handy $17 million budget.

Not so quiet after all.

“A Quiet Place,”

directed by John Krasinski

Run time: 90 min.

* * * 1/2(out of four)

Rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody images


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