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A Quiet Place (2018)::rating::4::rating::4

A Quiet Place is one of those rare high-concept films that not only succeeds, but also uses its clever plot device to wicked effect.  Where most horror movies deploy some combination of gore, boobies, and an unsubtle smirk of self-awareness to lure viewers, this film relies on intelligence and restraint to create an atmosphere of genuine scariness.  Well-played characters who act in relatable ways only enhance the movie’s impact.

It’s the near future, and the Earth looks like a looted ruin.  Litter whips through lifeless, scarred cities, while forests stand in silent stillness.  Blind, berserker aliens have ravaged the planet, with their powerful ears marking any target foolish to make any noise above a whisper.  Survivors tiptoe from one day to the next, living with the constant terror that the next snapped twig will be their last.  Lee (John Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) shepherd their son (Noah Jupe) and deaf daughter (Millicent Simmons) through this desperate existence, all the while hoping to contact other humans in this void of tense muteness.

You might think a movie so dependent on stillness might end up being too boring or cute to endure, but that’s not the case with Place.  Krasinski (who directs and co-writes) expertly sets up a world of almost unbearable tension.  The characters live in constant stress, and their fear and frustration become our own.  As an actor, few can play an Everyman with the effortless charisma of Jim Halpert Krasinski, and he does a great job of shading his performance with a balance of optimism and exhaustion.  The teaming of real-life spouses can produce icky results (See:  Eyes Wide Shut), but he and Blunt achieve real onscreen chemistry as a duo determined to make the most of a damn-near hopeless situation.  Jupe and Simmonds are naturals as kids forced to grow up and adapt at warp speed.

As another plus, A Quiet Place is careful not to overstay its welcome.  Krasinski and company tell a compact story that gets pulled super-taut at 91 minutes.  They pack every minute of plot with something important, and the result is a movie that hurtles at full speed, despite its pin-dropping creepiness.  The film’s final act is stocked with gripping suspense.  A Quiet Place serves as lasting proof:  Horror movies don’t have to rely on dumb scripts filled with dumb characters who have to do dumb things to advance the plot.  This one isn’t just good, it’s scary good.

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