Favorite Movies of the 2010s: #5
5. A Quiet Place (2018)
There must be a monster movie.
Some of my favorite movies are the ones that transcend their genre and become something deeper and richer. A Quiet Place, a movie about a family trapped by aliens who hunt by sound, is a rumination on the nature of grief after tragedy and the unspoken issues among family memebers. The film opens in a post-apocalyptic America. A family loots through a pharmacy for supplies. Right away we learn that to make any noise is to attract that monsters that lurk, ready to devour. Entire essays could be written about what the metaphor behind that. Right away director John Krasinski establishes mood, tension, atmosphere, and unbearable suspense. During the long walk home, unspeakable tragedy strikes. A family member is attacked and dies. We pick up with the family a year later and the weight of that event hangs heavy over them. The wife, Evelyn, (Emily Blunt) is expecting a child. The children, Regan and Marcus (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) struggle to connect with their still grieving father, Lee (Krasinski). Regan worries Lee blames her for the loss their family has suffered. Marcus longs to be seen as a man by his father. All of this while they sequester themselves in a bunker beneath their remote farmhouse. And the monsters close in.
The movie moves back and forth between scenes of terror and suspense and conversations (mostly in sign language) about how this group is trying to hold it together during this time. The two most stressful scenes involve Emily Blunt's Evelyn. The first is when she steps on a nail with her bare foot while an alien stalks. The second occurs while Evelyn is upstairs in a bathtub fighting through intense labor pains while another alien creeps around just down the hall. The film builds to its inevitable showdown with the monsters and it is a satsifying and thrilling climax.
What separates A Quiet Place from other monster pictures is the way it allows us to genuinely care about these characters. These are smart, resourceful people working hard to survive. The constant strain and tension is unbearable and the added weight of loss has them at the breaking point. The performances are superb. Krasinski possesses a quiet strength as Lee and Emily Blunt frankly deserved an Oscar nomination for Evelyn. The children are strong, as well, especially Millicent Simmonds. Her scenes with Krasinski are touching and lovely. The filmmaking is lean and efficient, too. We are shown just enough about this world to immerse us and we can focus on the characters and their story.
I've read some criticism here and there that A Quiet Place fails because it features no backstory for the creatures. Honestly, I could care less what their backstory is. I don't need to know where they came from or what their purpose is. The movie is about so much more than just fighting the aliens. This is about dread, grief, and love. I love a good monster movie as much as anyone, but, for me, in the best of the genre, the monsters are beside the point. The characters are everything.