A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE | ©2024 Paramount Pictures

A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE | ©2024 Paramount Pictures

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff, Djimon Hounsou
Writer: Michael Sarnoski, story by John Krasinski and Michael Sarnoski, based on characters created by Bryan Woods & Scott Beck
Director: Michael Sarnoski
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: June 28, 2024

Among the interesting aspects of A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE is that, by setting it in New York City rather than a rural community, it is naturally larger-scale than its predecessors, yet it feels more intimate.

This is because, unlike 2018’s A QUIET PLACE and its sequel, 2021’s A QUIET PLACE PART II, A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE starts by focusing on one character, although it eventually allows a second to share the spotlight. There isn’t continuous splitting of the action. Also, because our protagonist Samira (Lupita Nyong’o) has a lot going on emotionally before immediate survival becomes an issue, there is more room for additional nuance.

As its title suggests, A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE takes place before the other two films in the franchise. It’s helpful though not absolutely necessary to have seen the previous movies.

In any case, here’s the premise: our world is invaded by giant, vicious aliens that resemble car-sized grasshoppers with rows of teeth. The aliens are blind, but hunt by sound; a word spoken at normal volume can lead to instant obliteration by one of the creatures.

The morning before the invasion, hospice patient Samira reluctantly allows her nurse Reuben (Alex Wolff) to coax her along on an outing to a theatre matinee in Manhattan. All hell breaks loose, leaving Samira alone, except for her emotional support cat Frodo (more about that momentarily), as she tries to survive an environment that has become apocalyptic.

Eventually, we and Samira encounter Eric (Joseph Quinn), a displaced young Englishman who is far more easily panicked than she is.

Nyong’o has few screen rivals when it comes to expressing silent terror. Her face continually explains to us the enormity of the fear she feels. Samira is introduced as someone who has no qualms about mocking her fellow hospice patients for things they can’t help – not precisely endearing – but we can’t help empathizing with her as we become better acquainted with her. Wolff exudes kindness, and Quinn has an open, honest vulnerability. Djimon Hounsou is believable as a man willing to step up in a crisis.

Director Michael Sarnoski, who wrote the script from a story he crafted with original QUIET PLACE director John Krasinski, takes great advantage of A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE’s expanded scope, giving us the sense of running through a war zone. The destruction is viscerally upsetting (and in IMAX, it resonates through the viewer’s body). Sarnoski shows off the monsters to good advantage, and he handles all of his actors with sensitivity and restraint.

There are a few lingering wait-a-minutes, and A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE adds one huge one with Frodo the cat. Cats are wonderful beings, capable of great intelligence, affection and loyalty. However, the idea that a healthy adult cat (and with all the running around he does, Frodo seems to be that) would tolerate being carried for so long without meowing, and continually be able to find and return to his human in a variety of unfamiliar locations, seems unlikely, to put it mildly. The reason it’s so noticeable is that the film continually relies on this as a plot point.

Other issues that have already cropped up in previous films include how it is that the noise-sensitive creatures cannot detect human breath and pulse when they are virtually on top of someone. We buy that they can’t swim (established in A QUIET PLACE PART II), because why not, but since they’re coming out of the sky, wouldn’t they just as easily land on an island as the mainland? Okay, maybe they’re easier to exterminate in small numbers.

While this isn’t a make-or-break matter, since we’re on the third film in the series, it also seems like we should get some sense of how it is the creatures are able to travel through space. Are they doing it by flying ships of their own (they don’t seem organized enough for that), or is some other species sending them to Earth to clear out humanity? Well, maybe that’s coming up in IV.

A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE is for those who appreciate both gigantic city-annihilating mayhem and credible intimate human moments, a combination that doesn’t always come along. It’s also for those who can suspend their disbelief about feline behavior.

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