The story of a family surviving in a world under attack by creatures who hunt by sound, A Quiet Place pulls the viewer in immediately not for the lack of sound, but the use of it. I’ve seen it described as a silent film, which is wildly inaccurate given the frequent use of POV sound. We’re set up for this immediately as we transition from a hearing character to a deaf one, so we’re ready when we find ourselves hearing the world as the creature does.
I’m always going to be in favor of the theatrical experience – you don’t see 250-odd movies in the cinema a year if you don’t think that matters – but some films work there in a way they’re never going to work at home. Sometimes it’s just that you need to see it as big as possible. Sometimes you need to be forced to focus, to be in a space where your attention is drawn into the film when it wanders, not drawn into your phone. And sometimes you need to be with a bunch of other people who are also afraid to eat their popcorn lest they make a noise and endanger the characters on screen.
That’s a particular kind of spellbinding experience, and in addition to the sound, it’s helped along by the clear photography. You can easily imagine a less-effective shaky-can version, but Krasinski ensures we always know what we’re looking at and where we are geographically with clean framing and movement.
Aside from that that, A Quiet Place is notable for Millicent Simmonds’ character (if names were given in the film, I missed them). First, she’s a deaf actress playing a deaf character, which should not still be notable, and yet is. Also, her disability is key to the plot in a positive way. In any other movie the deaf character would have been forced to adapt to the hearing world, and her deafness would have made her a target, but in the world of A Quiet Place, the fact that her family adapted to *her* by learning ASL is what enables them to survive.
I also appreciated that though the parents hewed closely to traditional gender roles – and try to pass them on – it’s clear from the film that Millicent’s character is the one with the drive to learn how to protect and go into the dangerous world provide for the family, whereas her brother would be happier staying close to home. (The casting of John & Emily as the parents does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of how we perceive these likely-survivalist characters.)
There are plenty of plot holes – look, even I wondered how they were getting electricity – but I was too busy telling my knees to relax to notice most of the time, and the ending is perfect. You can get away with a lot when you have a perfect ending.