Welcome to the Weekly Cinematejka, a review roundup of the movies I’m watching each week – when I have time to watch movies, that is – including box office hits, classics I’ve never seen, and other thoughts and tidbits on movies in general.
Feature Review: A Quiet Place
Ever since The Office ended 5 years ago, I’ve never been able to shake the, “John Krasinski as Jim Halpert,” stigma. And based on conversations I’ve had with other people, I’m not the only one. And mostly, that’s because he hadn’t done a lot of other projects. His biggest venture was starring in Michael Bay’s 13 Hours, which I stayed away from like the plague. But every time I saw him pop up, I was expecting that trademark knowing glance at the camera, followed by a shrug, smile or wide-eyed glare.
Without a doubt, A Quiet Place is Krasinski’s biggest undertaking since the popular sitcom: blockbuster producers; box office friendly genre; and legitimate star power with his wife by his side. But I also feel like it’s a bigger risk than most will admit: Krasinski was entering the part of his career where he likely needed a hit to really break into the film world and shed his nice guy stigma. Lucky for all of his fans, A Quiet Place is just what he hoped for, a box office winner that is pretty good to boot.
A Quiet Place follows a family living in a post-apocalyptic world where monsters roam the landscape. They’re blind, they’re armored, and they’re deadly, especially if you’re a noisy person. As the many, many newspaper in the screen’s margins point out, the monsters hunt their prey by sound. Thus, our protagonists are introduced as extremely careful and hell-bent on survival, especially for the sake of their children. It’s a somewhat silly premise on its face, but Krasinski is smart to establish the stakes right away. You’ll know what I mean when you see it…
Much has been made about the use of silence in A Quiet Place: how each tick of noise feels monumental, maybe even fatal… especially in a theater full of silent moviegoers (if you’re lucky.) This is a good observation, and it should be credited to John Krasinski that he is able to effectively direct such a tricky premise.
However, what struck me more about the film was how it used sound. The loudest moments – two screams immediately come to mind – come across as more powerful, almost as if they were from a deep, real place for the actors who deliver them. Again, this is a credit to Krasinski for contrasting the weight of his concept with raw, short bursts of emotion. They’re the moments in the film where I felt I could loose myself from the details and simply feel for these characters.
Because, ultimately, the character work is what stops A Quiet Place from being a great movie, instead of a solid one. The performances are all excellent, especially from Blunt and Krasinski, whose real-life relationship is deeply felt in its worn, tattered fictional dopplegänger. But it’s the spaces between the characters, most notably between Krasinski and Millicent Simmonds, that feel lacking. Major emotional threads depend on these relationships, and only a few of them deliver. It feels like, under the weight of his heady direction, Krasinski forgot that what really makes this story work is the family at the center. He ultimately has a lot of noble things to say about parenting, family, and sacrifice. But those things only resonate so much when we wholeheartedly believe they matter on screen as well as off.
At the end of its tight run time, however, it’s hard not to believe A Quiet Place is the step of Krasinski’s career he’s been working toward since The Office. Despite it’s character flaws – and somewhat contrived plot mechanisms – this is a movie that hums along, barely missing a beat. It’s thrilling, fun, and emotionally satisfying, especially when it eases up on the showy technique and highlights the heart beneath.
- Isle of Dogs hits national theaters this week, and I’m submitting my review to Cinema Faith this weekend. I saw it last weekend and, without giving away all my thoughts… it needs to be talked about a little bit.
- Legion is still the best thing on TV. The first episode of season 2 blew my mind in a dozen different ways, and I’ve heard the second episode is even wilder.
- It’s not pop culture related, but Shohei Otani is must-see TV for any baseball fans out there.