A Quiet Place: Day One Review | We Are Not Alone

by Andrew Parker

The monster movie prequel A Quiet Place: Day One takes its franchise in a new and exciting direction by expanding its canvas while staying true to what made audiences gravitate towards the series’ unnerving gimmick in the first place. I’ll admit to being personally unconvinced by the first two entries in the series from director John Krasinski, which I felt were interesting ideas slavishly attached to a storytelling gambit that came across too often like a parlour trick. But new writer-director Michael Sarnoski (working from a story provided in part by Krasinski) weaves an unrelated story from within the same universe that proves to be not only larger in scope and intent, but a lot more intimate and sorrowful when it comes to the substance. Hopefully, if this franchise continues, A Quiet Place: Day One marks a change in direction that everyone behind the scenes embraces, and on its own merits Sarnoski’s film is good enough to make me excited for future instalments, something the first two films honestly didn’t do.

Poet Samira (Lupita Nyong’o, who never disappoints) is slowly dying, living in a hospice located just outside New York City. The pain is getting worse, her sprit is drained, and she has already lived past the doctor’s best case estimates for survival. She’s physically and emotionally spent, but it doesn’t stop her from taking the advice of her nurse (Alex Wolff) and travelling with some of her fellow patients to a show in the city. While there, the Earth comes under attack from a race of alien invaders that hunt humans by sound. Unsure of what to do amid all the chaos and carnage, and keenly aware of her own impending mortality, Sam starts an unusual quest to get to Harlem for personal reasons. Although she has her trusty emotional support cat, Frodo, by her side (who proves to be both an asset and a hindrance, like all cats), Sam would prefer to be left alone. That changes when a complete stranger suffering extreme shock – a British law student named Eric (Jospeh Quinn) – starts following her around.

While the first films in the franchise took place in more naturally silent and removed locations, A Quiet Place: Day One takes full advantage of the fact that it unfolds in possibly the noisiest city on Earth. Not only does Sarnoski continue with Krasinski’s tense tradition of making people realize how loud everyday activities we take for granted can be when all other noise is stripped away, but the filmmaker ups the ante by making the constant hum of a major metropolis into something menacing and terrifying. The rules are the same in A Quiet Place: Day One, but the approach has been inverted because there’s no way to fully escape sound in a place as large and intricate as New York City. It’s still a gimmick movie at heart, but one that is taking full advantage of its new setting, including creating unique soundscapes so intricate that it can misdirect the aliens.

The invasion of New York is one of the best sequences in any film this year in terms of sound and visuals. Sarnoski fills the frame with all the chaos and terror it can hold, and the editing works perfectly hand in hand with the overwhelming and all encompassing sound mix that places the viewer firmly in the thick of all the smoke and terror. It’s a genuinely frightening piece of filmmaking that’s positively relentless, even if it feels like a moment far removed from the austerity of its predecessors. While Krasinski was able to terrify viewers with his ability to say less, Sarnoski finds a way to do the same by being as loud as possible. (Side note: this has been a truly outstanding year for sound designers, technicians who never get as much credit as they deserve. There have already been so many tremendous feats in this department that it would be hard for me to pick a favourite.)

The more restrained elements of the original film are still intact, but Sarnoski uses them mostly for the sake of emotional and character depth. A Quiet Place: Day One is, at it’s heart, a mournful and soulful meditation on grief and searching for the things that matter in times of crisis. It’s a film about what we hang onto, and why we choose to either keep fighting or give up. Samira’s major quest in the film to Harlem is built around something so simple, darkly humorous, and immediately relatable that it adds some uniquely low stakes charm to a film that’s quite literally about the end of civilization as we know it. As for Eric, he’s a person who simply doesn’t want to be alone, possibly wrestling with the feeling that – more specifically – he doesn’t want to DIE alone. These characters make for compelling counterpoints, and their conversations and hushed body language provide the film with a lot of emotional resonance. They are both motivated by shock and trauma, which provides them with common ground, but they process that feeling in different ways. In many ways, A Quiet Place: Day One comes across not only like a pitch-perfect prequel, but also like a continuation of what Sarnoski did with his debut feature Pig, which was also a stripped down, expertly crafted genre piece about people refusing to let go of memories and things that kept them grounded amid troubling times. 

The terror level throughout A Quiet Place: Day One is consistently high, but this time out it has more to work with than waiting for the sound of the other proverbial shoe dropping. Similarly, the emotional complexity of Sarnoski, Nyong’o, and Quinn’s work will wash over the viewer without them even realizing it. Not only is A Quiet Place: Day One an unexpectedly excellent third entry in a franchise that initially seemed like a “one and done” proposition, but also a conversation starter about what we hold true in our lives, and things that we will take into consideration when we feel like time is running out. Its themes extend beyond the apocalypse and ask the viewer to contemplate everything they’ve lost before the end of the world, and mourning the experiences we constantly think about and may never have again. Amid all the gloom, gore, and sadness on display in A Quiet Place: Day One, there is also strength, hope, and reasons to keep pushing forward, no matter how trivial those goals might seem. This is a film where everything has meaning, and it’s just as beautiful and stirring as it is unquestionably terrifying.

A Quite Place: Day One opens in theatres everywhere on Friday, June 28, 2024.

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