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Film review: “A Quiet Place: Day One” proves to be a fitting addition to the series – The Independent

4 stars

– By Adam Mast –

John Krasinski made his name with his memorable role in The Office, but over the last decade he’s also established himself as a pretty good director. After the little-seen independent dramedy The Hollars, Krasinski directed the sci-fi-tinged monster movie A Quiet Place and its equally successful sequel just a few years later. However, he ultimately handed over the helm of that A Quiet Place spin-off to a new director so he could focus on his recent family film If.

A quiet place: day one
A quiet place: day one

In A Quiet Place: Day One, the emotionally charged Lupita Nyong’o plays Samira, a terminally ill but stubborn New Yorker who is thrust into a complete nightmare when an alien invasion causes urban chaos not seen since the tragic attacks of 9/11. Eventually, Samira finds herself in a fight to the death when an army of alien creatures terrorizes New York. As in the last two installments of this incredibly popular franchise, the creatures in question are attracted to noise. Translation: Make a noise and you’re dead. With only one service animal by her side – an adorable and resilient cat named Frodo – Samira eventually (and very reluctantly) teams up with aspiring lawyer Eric (Joseph Quinn, of Stranger Things fame), a frightened human seeking guidance in a world that has become hell.

As mentioned, Krasinski handed over the directorial duties to another filmmaker this time around. Jeff Nichols (the gifted writer of the recent The Bikeriders) was originally set to direct, but he left shortly before production began. He was replaced by Michael Sarnoski, the relatively new director of the underrated independent gem Pig. Seriously, if you haven’t seen Pig, I highly recommend him. He delivers one of the best performances of Nicolas Cage’s long career.

Sarnoski proves to be a great choice here, as he really places a lot of emphasis on the human experience rather than just focusing on the alien carnage. In that regard, “Day One” certainly has a lot in common with parts one and two. That said, while this film doesn’t shy away from showing the devastation the aliens cause, Sarnoski is much more interested in the humans. The aliens are the obstacle, much like the zombies in “The Walking Dead.” It should also be noted that you won’t find an expansion of the alien story that is the focus of that series in this film. There is a sequence here where we see these creatures dine, but what they’re consuming isn’t really explained. Again, this film is really about the character traits, and there are some beautiful ones to speak of. And interestingly, “Day One” feels almost improvised at times (particularly during a moving scene in the final act), and in many ways that works to the film’s benefit.

Nyong’o just has a wonderful screen presence and while her end goal in “Day One” may be a little obvious to some, she plays the events with honesty and conviction. Likewise, Quinn is great as a most unexpected bright spot in Samira’s rather dark world and the bond that develops between them is very intense. While Nyong’o and Quinn are truly the heart and soul of the film, Djimon Hounsou and Alex Wolff deliver effective supporting roles. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t give the highest praise to scene-stealer Frodo. As a companion animal with a heart of gold, I was nervous every moment that this cute little cat was on screen because I didn’t want him to end up as dinner. Yes, Frodo as a character requires that good old suspension of disbelief (this cat does things and behaves in ways that can really only happen in the movies), but in his own way, he is an important part of the film and does a lot to show who Samira and Eric are as people.

Yes, A Quiet Place: Day One certainly offers a similar take on the apocalyptic proceedings, and yes, there are inconsistencies when it comes to the “don’t make a sound” rule, but… I was intrigued by the, if you’ll pardon the pun, quieter aspects of this dramatic film, and Sarnoski, Nyong’o, and Quinn deserve a lot of credit for that. They clearly recognize that this is an end-of-the-world type scenario, but they also recognize that a film of this nature can only really work if it offers characters worth caring about. It’s also clear that they understand that viewers need to leave this film with a sense of hope, compassion, and empathy, no matter how grim things get. Ultimately, this film manages to do that. No, A Quiet Place: Day One doesn’t reinvent the monster movie wheel, but ultimately it’s a fitting addition to this series.

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