It’s symbolized by a stoic look that’s accompanied by an index finger, extended vertically and pressed softly and to one’s lips.
Don’t. Make. A sound.
It’s a simple rule, really. And in this unsettling setting it absolutely is the difference between life and death, because – as the film’s tagline warns – “if they hear you, they hunt you.”
The “they” being referenced are relentless creatures about which little is known. But what the Abbott family does know – and what we discover upon scanning several newspaper headlines – is that these creatures are aggressively drawn toward sound.
Their attacks are swift and scary and non-discriminatory; the only relief is in knowing that death is immediate, which clearly is established in alarming fashion on “Day 89,” even before the film’s title appears onscreen.
This unexpected sequence is a jaw-dropper for sure, and it sensibly sets the tone for the level of importance with which silence is necessary.
For the most part the Abbotts – including dad, Lee (Krasinski); mom, Evelyn (Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s real-life wife); daughter, Regan (the spectacular Millicent Simmonds); and son, Marcus (Noah Jupe; loved this kid in last year’s “Wonder”) – carry on about their lives in a manner so quiet a church mouse would be proud.
They communicate via sign language. They walk barefoot, outdoors across a path of soft, white sand; and indoors by carefully stepping on pre-determined, marked areas to avoid creaky floor boards. The kids play Monopoly, mindful of the need to roll the dice on an area rug and move their cloth game pieces along the board so as not to make a peep.
But you know things cannot and will not be this quiet forever. I mean, otherwise there’d be no movie. Right?
Krasinski, probably best known as the smart-aleck, poker-faced practical joker Jim Halpert from NBC’s “The Office,” cranks up the serious meter here and does so much with so little.
The cast list? In the single digits.
The dialogue? Damn near non-existent, and the few lines that are spoken wouldn’t even fill a page of script.
Because of that, everything hinges on the visuals. It’s so important that the camera work and performances not only tell this story but carry the action and express the emotion necessary to tell it well.
And that’s where “A Quiet Place” really makes a statement – loud and clear.
Krasinski’s lens poetically mimics the flow and intensity of the action. Those slow tracking and panning shots mirror the careful movements of the characters and make it seem like the camera is tip-toeing, too – cautiously capturing the images without disruption or sound.
But then that panicked music kicks in, lending a pulsating heartbeat to select scenes as those subsequent quick edits effectively increase the pace of the action to match the film’s ferocity.
And ohhhh boy is it intense!
Is that the movie – or my heart about to beat right out of my chest??
I was impressed at how peripheral sounds differed depending on from which character’s perspective we were listening. It’s very subtle, but it’s such a smart way to further pull us into this narrative and connect us with the individual players.
This story is riveting and unique, and those tight shots make every scene unnerving as hell. Humans inherently want to survive, and “A Quiet Place” pushes that instinct to the brink – time and time again.
Because we’re aware of the consequences, even just the anticipation of noise in any fashion will leave you holding your breath, or paralyzed with dread, or wincing in wait.
I was pretty much a ball of anxiety throughout this entire movie – afraid to make a single damn sound. Anyone else?
That a movie can have this kind of effect on viewers is a triumph for the art of the cinema.
This is why we go to the movies: for the experience. We go to participate with the characters on screen – to hold our collective breath, to be afraid, to feel the tension, to hope for survival.
And trust me, “A Quiet Place” will have you doing all of that.
Bravo, Mr. Krasinski. And thank you for the ride.
You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel. You also can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.