An attractive young couple (Emily Blunt and John Krasinski) seem like they’re raising their kids in a homesteaders’ dream: long country walks, board games by gaslight, smoking their own trout.
Except it’s not some idyllic, back-to-the-land lifestyle choice; it’s the new reality of living in a world taken over by man-eating alien predators. And the family use sign language instead of speaking not just because their daughter (Wonderstruck‘s Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, but because these creatures — blind, skittering bugs that look like a crab and a spider had a nightmare — are primed to attack at sound.
“Stay Silent, Stay Alive” is the motto, and Krasinski, who also directs, has conjured a taut, breathless little trick of a movie around it: 90 minutes of slow-drip dread and well-earned jump scares that dissipate, oddly, only when the silence is broken. Set in a post-invasion wasteland marked by ragged missing-person posters, plundered drugstores, and eerily empty streets, the story establishes its ground rules — and the turning point of an early tragedy — before narrowing in on Blunt’s heavily pregnant mother (don’t newborns cry? A lot?) and the two elder children (Simmonds, one of the few young hearing-impaired actresses working in mainstream movies today, and Suburbicon’s Noah Jupe, both great).
That’s also where the dialogue begins to creep in, and talking tends to break the spell, or just spell things out too literally. Like the clues displayed in Krasinski’s character’s basement workshop, with its scribbled-on white boards and old news clippings, even those few lines make it feel as if he doesn’t quite trust the audience to catch up otherwise.
But he also builds a fantastically sustained mood, in ways that feels both completely modern and pleasingly old-school, with its shades of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and other ’80s touchstones. And when A Quiet Place has one finger on the panic button and the other on mute, it’s a nervy, terrifying thrill. B+