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A Quiet Place: Day One Review

A Quiet Place: Day One is an effective, well-acted and directed prequel to the other two films in the franchise and should be another hit.

PLOT: A woman named Sam (Lupita Nyong’o) finds herself trapped in New York City at the start of the alien invasion depicted in the first two Quiet Place movies.

REVIEW: A quick word of warning before I get into my review. Paramount has been pretty smart about avoiding any SPOILERS for this movie, so if you want to go in fresh without knowing anything about it other than whether or not it’s good, I’ll save you the rest of the review. I enjoyed it. It’s not quite as good as the first two movies, but it’s a solid prequel that shares the same DNA as the other movies, delivering a surprisingly affecting human story amid all the carnage.

Still with me? Ok, without getting too much into spoiler territory, Michael Sarnoski’s prequel to the John Krasinski movies has a more dramatic bent than the other two films. Anyone who thought this would be the Aliens to A Quiet Place 1 & 2’s Alien is wrong, as this is perhaps even more performance and character-driven than the other films in the franchise. Sarnoski made a big impact on the indie scene with his incredible Nicolas Cage drama Pig, and A Quiet Place: Day One carries the same humanistic vibe. Sure, there are alien attacks and carnage, but at its heart, it’s a story about two people thrown together by fate. Lupita Nyong’o’s Sam and Joseph Quinn’s Eric have little to nothing in common, but they both have a lot of empathy, and as the film goes on, their bond becomes surprisingly potent.

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It’s the characterizations that have always made the A Quiet Place movies so good, with Krasinski, Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe in the first film and Cillian Murphy in the second, all being excellent. The view of humanity in these movies has always been optimistic, save for one violent encounter in the second film, and that vibe carries over to this one.

A Quiet Place: Day One Review

Lupita Nyong’o’s Sam is a unique protagonist in that, right as the movie begins, we learn that she’s dying of cancer, with her an in-patient at a hospice. She clings to a therapy cat (who must be the most well-behaved screen feline of all time) on her odyssey, with the film being about how, even though she’s going to die either way, she somewhat rediscovers her will to live as the movie goes on. The idea is that every second she gets to live is a victory. By comparison, Quinn’s Eddie, a youthful exchange student from England, is her opposite, with his bright future laid out right ahead of him, only to vanish in the blink of an eye as the attacks start. Nyong’o and Quinn have a good sense of camaraderie, with them realistically heroic as the film goes on, and willing to sacrifice their well-being for the other. Quinn’s become a buzzy star since his breakout role on Stranger Things, and he’s quite good in a relatively low-key everyman role.

While essentially a two-hander, Djimon Hounsou returns from the second film, with this showing how he wound up leading an island of survivors in part two. It’s a small part, but it is a solid connection to the other movies. Alex Wolff, who re-teams with Sarnoski following Pig, is similarly excellent as Sam’s caring and heroic nurse, who’s with her as the attacks begin.

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If the acting and characters are so good, why does it fall slightly short of the last two? For me, it’s the fact that those films had a certain degree of realism and practicality to them (or, as realistic as you can get in a movie about aliens anyway), with this one embracing a bit of magic realism through the use of Sam’s cat, who constantly resurfaces, and seems supernaturally in tune with its beloved humans. The fact that the (cute) cat wouldn’t bolt the first time someone made a loud noise is almost harder to swallow than the aliens!

It should also be noted that, after two films that were chock-full of suspenseful set pieces, A Quiet Place: Day One needed something similar. No signature moments really stand out. However, the New York setting is well-used, and the film is thoroughly compelling from start to finish, even if it lacks a little of the extra kick-ass Krasinski doled out in the other movies from time to time.

It has to be said that A Quiet Place has turned out to be a franchise with better legs than any of us thought, thanks to the smart people behind it and the top-notch talent on the screen. While it’s the least of the series, it’s still quite good, and it feels like a franchise that could sustain another movie or two.

A Quiet Place: Day One director Michael Sarnoski says he took a daring approach while following John Krasinski into this franchise

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