A Quiet Place opens with a family searching an abandoned drugstore for supplies. It soon becomes clear that we are in a familiar post-apocalyptic trope. But one feature of the scene stands out: the silence. Everyone is using sign language and proceeding with the utmost care not to make a sound. Before the final title credit, it becomes clear why.
The source of the destruction is not a microscopic pathogen. Rather, it is an alien creature, one that has presumably invaded the planet approximately three months before. And it hunts by sound: if they hear you, they hunt you.
Plot Quibbling Interlude
I have a couple complaints about this scenario, and I’d like to get them out of the way now. Feel free to skip the quibbles if you like to continue the main review below.
The first is that while the aliens are apparently blind, they also make clicking noises. This strongly suggests that their mode of navigation in the world is something like echolocation. With that in mind, note that in several scenes, human beings move past the aliens and remain undetectable so long as they don’t make a sound. But this seems inconsistent since presumably, they would be detectable as large moving objects by way of echolocation. In short, why would movement alone not be sufficient to hunt humans?
Second, it’s not clear how this plague would have overrun the earth so quickly. (In one scene, the father, played by John Krasinski, is shown failing to get any response to an SOS distress signal that he is broadcasting on frequencies across the entire globe.) Interestingly, a newspaper on sale in the town is shown with a title like this: “It’s the Sound!”, suggesting that the most basic discovery of the aliens’ modus operandi came the very day before there was no more print media distribution.
Perhaps alien dominance came about through a shock-and-awe campaign where human beings were overrun in a couple days. Nonetheless, it does seem a bit implausible. Surely, it would not have been that difficult to figure out that the aliens hunt by sound. Nor, once that discovery had been made, should it have been that difficult to turn the tables and hunt the aliens. After all, the United States alone has 300,000,000 guns and it turns out a shotgun blast to the head is enough to take one of these aliens out. They also seem rather simple-minded: running like rabid dogs toward any sound. To sum up, one can readily envision human beings fashioning alien traps not much more sophisticated than flypaper.
In short, the plot requires some suspension of disbelief. That said, it’s a small cost to pay for some big cinematic dividends.
As I said, John Krasinski plays the father of the family. He also directed the film and his wife Emily Blunt plays the mother/wife.The family unit also includes three children. Beyond that basic family unit, you only encounter 1 1/2 other people through the entire movie. (Though it is clear that there are people living on the nearby hills, they are never seen.)
All this is to say that a handful of actors carry the entire story, and they do a great job. A Quiet Place is like a mashup of Shyamalan’s Signs with the 2017 film It Comes at Night (and the silence of 2016’s Don’t Breathe), though it surpasses all those films. A Quiet Place is an edge-of-your-seat thriller from the beginning, with intense performances by all the actors, a deceptively bucolic setting, and terrifying aliens that look like the scary older brother of the demogorgon from Stranger Things (complete with the scariest freakin’ Dumbo ears you’ll ever see). If you like nail-biting suspense and the occasional jump scare, you’ll love A Quiet Place.
My favorite aspect of A Quiet Place wasn’t the intense acting, the brilliant silence motif, or the demogorgon’s older brothers. Rather, it was the surprising family values. Not since the 2009 film The Road has post-apocalyptic desolation been illumined by such deep and powerful family bonds. There is an undeniable chemistry between Krasinski and Blunt, most obviously when they slow dance (with headphones) to Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.” Then there is the bonding of father with son, the welcome of a new baby under the most unthinkable of circumstances, and above all, the searing reconciliation of father to daughter. Later, as the daughter views her father’s legacy of love laid out on a workbench, it became clear that this is one of the most powerful family values films that I’ve ever seen.
And that is a fact worth dwelling on. As I write, there are several “Christian” movies in the theater. By “Christian” I mean movies that are produced and marketed for an explicitly conservative Christian audience: e.g. I Can Only Imagine and God’s Not Dead 3. The cinematic quality of those films is middling at best. But Christians go to see them anyway, not least because they promise “family values”.
The fact is, however, that the most powerful display of family values is found not in the tired tropes of evangelical Christian cinema, but in the post-apocalyptic silence of a bucolic, alien-infested farm. A Quiet Place does not promise us that this family will survive. But love wins in the end just the same. As Paul said,
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. […] And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”