A Quiet Place: Day One still
Director
Cast
, , ,
Rated
PG-13
Runtime
99 min.
Release Date
06/28/2024
A Quiet Place: Day One poster

A Quiet Place: Day One spins off from the 2018 and 2021 installments of the alien-invasion franchise, co-written and directed by John Krasinski. Still serving as a producer and earning “story by” credit, Krasinski turns over the reins to Michael Sarnoski, whose debut feature, Pig, an indie starring Nicolas Cage as a truffle-hunting former chef, was one of the best films of 2021. Though, it was hardly a spectacle that would suggest Sarnoski could handle a large-scale production. Nevertheless, many successful independent filmmakers today prove their salt with a smaller production only to graduate to a Hollywood tentpole. Sarnoski rises (or lowers, depending on your perspective) to the task, adhering to the aesthetic template established by Krasinski. Like the earlier entries, Day One is an efficient B-movie setup that runs 99 minutes and boasts suspense in droves, all on a reasonable budget—$67 million, which, though cheap by today’s summer movie standards, surpasses A Quiet Place’s price tag by more than three times. Fortunately, Day One never feels like an empty cash grab to exploit intellectual property. It might even be the best entry in the series.

The spinoff sets aside the Abbott family and their upstate farm to consider the alien invasion of New York City (played by London). Appropriately, the movie offers a grander scale and higher chaos quotient given its crowds of panicking New Yorkers, but it’s still centered on a few people trying to survive. For those unfamiliar, crab-like aliens with supersonic hearing have landed and, though blind, they attack anything that makes noise. Opening titles explain that the noise in NYC hums at about 90 decibels at all times, which equates to a “constant scream,” turning the city into a duck-shooting barrel for the invaders. This is especially true after the authorities demolish the bridges around Manhattan to isolate the threat (the aliens cannot swim), thereby stranding our survivors. We follow Sam (Lupita Nyong’o), a cancer patient whose hospice care group takes a field trip into the city to catch a marionette show, accompanied by her conveniently quiet service cat, Frodo. The cat is played by two not-quite-identical felines, Nico and Schnitzel, who steal the show with their uncanny helpfulness. Sam quickly finds herself grappling not only with an alien threat but also her declining health.

A Quiet Place: Day One stillSarnoski crafts several memorable sequences, including the aliens’ crash-landing in the city that sends up ash, predictably evoking 9/11. Spry for a terminal case, Sam maneuvers to safety, eventually meeting a frightened British law student, Eric (Joseph Quinn), who clings to her out of terror. Throughout much of the second act, Sam, Eric, and Frodo navigate the city. They head not toward salvation but to Harlem, where Sam hopes to acquire a final slice of pizza before she passes. Much of their time together involves silence. However, Eric is prone to panic attacks, and one inside a flooded subway tunnel makes for a scary setup. Elsewhere, Djimon Hounsou reprises his role from A Quiet Place Part II in a scene straight out of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005), resorting to extremes to protect everyone else from a loud, frightened survivor. War of the Worlds is a clear template for this series, with both focused on a limited number of characters amid a global conflict. 

Sarnoski confidently delivers intense sequences, working with his Pig cinematographer Pat Scola to create a visually straightforward presentation that never distracts from Day One’s interest in its characters. For their part, the terrific Nyong’o and Quinn enhance the material with a couple of tender scenes—one involving poetry, the other a magic trick—recalling the quiet, poignant beats from Sarnoski’s last film. To be sure, the filmmaker commits to the material, using Alexis Grapsas’ score more sparingly than Krasinski used music, refreshingly so, and trusting that the actors’ physical performances will do much of the film’s work to fill the silence. It’s an admirably minimalist presentation, with just a few whispered lines of dialogue to establish thin backstories. Otherwise, the actors move as though in a silent movie, performing expressive gestures that allow the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks and imbue with meaning. Also worth noting: Sarnoski uses actual animals for the cat scenes, whereas most Hollywood productions would probably deploy CGI to avoid the challenges of working with animals. Given the cat’s presence, I constantly wondered, “Where is the cat?” and “Is the cat okay?” (Spoiler: Frodo lives.) 

It’s easy to root for a movie like this. A Quiet Place started with an original concept and a modest budget, and it’s developed into a creative and profitable series for Paramount Pictures. Whereas every other Hollywood production is based on a comic book or established source material these days, here’s an original idea that has thrived. And supposedly, this won’t be the last installment. The Abbott family will return in A Quiet Place Part III to conclude the series, reportedly sometime in the next year or so. Although this franchise has always felt somewhat slight for its lack of fleshed-out characters, they each last around 90 minutes and supply a dependable helping of scares and escapism through their immersive, moment-to-moment suspense. The cast’s star power does the rest. On those terms, Day One does just what it sets out to, neither breaking the mold nor failing to meet the series’ expectations, but offering a sturdy and admirable spinoff with impressive performances and diverting thrills.

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