With two high-profile sci-fis offloaded to Netflix in recent months – one sagely (The Cloverfield Paradox), the other more controversially (Annihilation, given its strong reviews) – you’d be forgiven for questioning whether Paramount still had the stomach for releasing high concept genre works into the current marketplace.
Fortunately, there’s still life in the studio yet. The new film from actor John Krasinski, starring real-life wife Emily Blunt alongside rising stars Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, A Quiet Place takes the familiar premise of a post-apocalyptic dystopia and adds one vital ingredient: invention. The human race has been ravaged by extraterrestrial creatures that hunt purely by sound. Adjusting to the new dictum that “silence equals survival”, a family must adapt itself to a pastoral existence of sign language and headphones.
A tragedy early on in the crisis only sharpens the family’s resolve, though it also drives a wedge between father Lee (Krasinski) and his deaf-mute daughter Regan (Simmonds). Unwilling to allow her to join him on his recon trips outside of the homestead in favour of timid son Marcus (Jupe), Regan’s aural isolation becomes increasingly physical. On top of this, her mother Evelyn’s (Blunt) attention has now been diverted to the impending birth of a new life – one that will come into the world kicking and screaming.
While Krasinski’s debut bears more than a passing resemblance to the likes of The Road, It Comes at Night and even Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us video game, it’s the impeccable performances of its central quartet and delicious premise that makes A Quiet Place such an exhilarating watch. Everyday objects such as a loose nail and a toy rocket suddenly became potential killers, with one of the “dark angels” ready to descend upon even the slightest noise. A handful of cheap jump-scares aside, this is the kind of assured, artful genre filmmaking that will hopefully sustain one of Hollywood’s more ambitious studios.