A Quiet Place focuses on a rural family in the aftermath of some apocalyptic event. We open with what has now become familiar visual fare of a deserted store and within a few moments, Krasinski establishes the roles of all of the family members: the father (Krasinski), the mother (the real-life wife of Krasinski, Emily Blunt), and the three children of various ages, played by Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, and Cade Woodward. They skitter around the store as if they're specters themselves, all barefoot, and signing to each other while making no noise. All around the store, we see that although several items have been long pillaged, there's a story in what has been left untouched, such as a stack of crunchy Doritos bags.
And this is because the family, and at least the surrounding area, are plagued by unknown monsters who are attracted to noise. Little is said about how they arrived or what impact they've had worldwide, but it's not needed for several reasons. Krasinski is wise to keep the story tight to the family, because there are several potential holes that could puncture the framework of this idea. But this story is chiefly about the family and their dynamic. The camera is tight on them, often in close-ups, not only because this amps up the tension, but because it is intimate to their narrative. Furthermore, in a world where silence reigns, there is far more significance in a glance, in a furrowed brow, or a motion. Blunt conveys her love for her family and her husband so simply and elegantly. Although the parents both have a role in keeping their family together, it is arguably Blunt who holds that emotional cord within the span of a few gestures.
This is why A Quiet Place succeeds: it is ultimately an empowering tale about a family's love for each other. Although yes, the creature design on the monsters is wonderful, and Krasinski shows a good deal of restraint in how much he chooses to show of it through out the movie. However, that, along with some of the cheaper jump scares, are things that will wear thin with rewatches (and perhaps even as the movie goes on). What remains, and what makes it truly frightening, is that you come to care for all of the characters. There is a masterful sense of timing with some of the plot props -- Krasinski knows just how much time and reveal should be given to any given set pieces (it's Chekovian as much as it is Marx Brothers) -- but at the same time, he's able to give us a theme without making it saccharine or trite, wandering into heavy-handed M. Night Shyamalan territory. Krasinski doesn't use cheap effects like a shaky camera to make the audience feel anything -- he does it all by giving us a clear view of the people and the film.
Charlotte Bruus Christensen is the cinematographer here, known for her work in such movies as The Hunt, which focuses on bringing another kind of tension to the screen. Christensen and Krasinski are both inexperienced in creating horror movies, but looked at movies such as No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood as well as Hitchcock as those are movies that are good with handling silences, but also are demonstrative of their setting. They are also, not by coincidence, stories that make use of a wide screen while creating intimacy. Similarly, A Quiet Place makes use of the natural background, without artificiality and it's also this closeness to nature that can be unnerving to audience members, like the profound impact of darkness in The VVitch was. Remarkably, A Quiet Place, is able to draw you into its world while making you acutely aware of yourself. Never will you go into another movie so aware of the noise you're making or of who is slurping a soda behind you. I nearly karate chopped an individual sitting in front of me who had an excruciatingly bright cell phone screen lit up as he Snapchatted someone.
What a joy to see Krasinski and Blunt work together. It requires a sort of trust between people when using non-verbal cues so heavily as in the story, and also between the storyteller and the audience. It's a tight narrative that has shaved off all the gristle while remaining rich in potent, empowering themes.