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A Quiet Place: Day One

Released 2024. Director: Michael Sarnoski

SHHH... STAY QUIET IF YOU WANT TO LIVE. In 2018, A Quiet Place was the first movie made in English that makes you read English subtitles because it is told mostly without spoken dialogue but in sign language. It’s a suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thriller depicting the aftermath of an alien invasion when survivors learn that the predators with sharp claws and teeth can’t see but they have super-sharp hearing. Make a noise and they’ll get you.

Directed by John Krasinski and starring his wife Emily Blunt, the movie was so successful a sequel was inevitable. Part 2 was another fist-clenching thrill ride when widowed Emily and her three kids must again evade the aliens with help from Cillian Murphy.

Now comes the prequel to the day the aliens landed (which was also depicted in the prologue to Part 2). Day One moves the action to New York City with a new cast led by Lupita Nyong’o and Joseph Quinn. Can they maintain the tension for a third time? Can they find any new angle that works? Can the movie even work without Emily Blunt? The answers are yes, yes and yes.

Lupita plays Samira, a woman with a terminal illness who has lost interest in life just waiting for her final exit. Samira can get testy with the people at her hospice but she’s tender with her cat Frodo and it’s the service feline who connects her with Eric, a British law student who emerges from a flooded subway as the city crumbles under alien attack. Together, the three navigate through an apocalypse, half the time in a silent movie.

A Quiet Place: Day One is one of those movies best enjoyed on the biggest screen you can find (I watched it on IMAX and it was smashing). Take the city evacuation scene for instance. Even though everyone knows it’s absolutely critical to stay silent, it’s impossible for thousands of people to shuffle down the streets without any noise, and noise means trouble. Tiny bits of footfalls and clothes rustling multiply and amplify leading to big, nasty, noisy, bloody and messy trouble.

The plot is simple but efficient, mostly running in terror and creeping in suspense in basically 99 minutes of hide-and-seek. Wide shots of Manhattan being pummelled accompanied by loud, seat-rumbling sound effects segue into anxious stillness and narrow, individual-focus moments and back. The action blockbuster part merge with the quiet drama part with ease as the movie recounts the origin of the saga. In the hushed moments you sit transfixed, afraid to make a noise, cough or clear your throat in case you startle someone in the audience or worse. Tension is always high because there’s much that the characters do not know. They have no weapons and all they could do is find shelter while keeping very quiet, which surprisingly is still an effective direction after two movies. Day One can be viewed as a stand-alone if you haven’t seen the last two Quiet Place movies, a sign that the series has the potential to expand in other directions.

Lupita Nyong’o and Joseph Quinn (as Eric) are superb as the besieged survivors. The fear and breathless urgency is fully realised on their expressive faces, many times captured in unflinching close-up shots adding to the desperation of their experience. Samira and Eric, along with Frodo, are the reasons the movie is riveting as they manage to sweep us along on their perilous journey step by step. When Frodo bounds away at a loud noise you feel instinctively to reach out and grab him.

We still do not know much about the invaders but I’m glad there’s no shoehorning of exposition to break the tension, no cutting away to scientists or defense personnel explaining with diagrams and computer graphics to a committee. Instead, we never leave the side of Samira or Eric, and the movie never loses sight of what really matters to the characters. Even when they pause for a slice of pizza and imaginary jazz, the human aspect of a full-fledged action showstopper does not feel out of place. And when Eric risks his life to find meds for Samira and comes face to face with a nightmarish alien, you stop breathing.

Michael Sarnoski, who directed the private meditation on grief featuring Nicolas Cage at his most poignant in Pig, puts the emphasis on how ordinary people in a big city react to disaster and tragedy on a micro level. His achievement is staging a fiery carpet-bombing war zone studded with enough tiny intimate human details of fear, courage and strength. Day One is about a woman who’s just about given up on living finding her life’s purpose. It’s about strangers connecting over adversity, their bond and their kindness.

Click image above to view trailer. New window will open.


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