A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE Review: A Bold Step Forward In A Solid Series

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE Review: A Bold Step Forward In A Solid Series

The marauding aliens with the very keen hearing are back in the third installment of the A Quiet Place film series. A Quiet Place: Day One takes us back to the beginning of the crisis that became a surprise hit back in 2018 with John Krasinski’s original film that dropped audiences into a post-invasion world where one family struggles to survive in which any sound could prompt a swarm of vicious monsters to descend upon helpless humans. While A Quiet Place 2 briefly visited the origin of this global calamity, Day One has chosen to focus on the apocalyptic onset from a different, more personal angle.

Sam (Lupita Nyong’o) is dying, but in this case the monsters have nothing to do with it, she’s fighting terminal cancer and losing. When she – and her cat Frodo – joins her hospice group goes on a field trip to New York City to watch a puppet show, their journey home is interrupted before it can begin by something sinister falling from the sky. The angels of death have landed, and anyone who makes a sound is easy prey.

Aware of her own quickly approaching mortality whether the monsters get her or not, Sam decides that before she goes, she really wants pizza from her favorite place in Harlem. The problem is that Harlem is in the exact opposite direction of safety, but if she’s going to die anyway, she might as well do it with a slice of pie in her hand. Along the way she runs into a frantic law school student from England names Eric (Joseph Quinn), and the two of them try to survive together they best they can, for as long as they can.

Written and directed by Michael Sarnoski, whose 2021 film Pig boasted one of Nicolas Cage’s finest performances in years, Day One is the first of the series not to feature Krasinski in those roles, and it has a very different feel as a result. Where the first two films in the series were more about the action and the challenge of remaining silent in the face of certain death, A Quiet Place: Day One is more about finding a way to live through the tragedy, finding peace and comfort while the world burns around you. This is a story of found family, about caring for others in ways they often don’t care for themselves, not just about staying alive.

Lyong’o’s performance as a woman for whom death is coming sooner rather than later is breathtakingly poignant in a way that not many actors could manage. Sam’s character arc through the course of the film shows more growth than any character in the series thus far, moving from the nihilist we meet at her hospice to a woman for whom life is precious, even when it isn’t her own, is tremendously affecting. Her bond with Eric, rapidly forged in tragedy and trauma, is believable and heartfelt, and together they create a relationship from nothing in a matter of hours that reaches through the screen to bring the audience in.

Make no mistake, though, this is still a horror film and a very impressive one at that. The creatures are terrifying, perhaps even more so because we don’t get many good looks at them. Thankfully the earlier films did some of the heavy lifting when it comes to reveals, so Day One can focus more on their effect on the world around them. This is the first time we are able to witness the kind of damage they can do in an urban setting, and Sarnoski and his team take full advantage, laying waste to the city and exploiting all of the things that make it fertile ground for survival horror (subways, streets thick with desperate people, traffic, mass hysteria).

The monsters are just as terrifying ever, the original design hasn’t evolved much, and that’s just fine because they were horrifying to begin with. With the change in setting, we also get a lot more of them as the invasion seems to understand the need to deploy more manpower to more thickly populated areas. Sarnoski smartly spaces out the attacks, putting large silent gaps into the narrative that allow the Sam and Eric relationship to develop in a natural way between the panics.

A Quiet Place: Day One is a rarity in that it very well could be the best film in a very strong series, which does not often happen in round three. Michael Sarnoski takes a world facing challenges that we already understand and focuses in a completely different way on people trying their best to survive. Our heroes are smart, determined, and humane and avoid every pitfall of horror movie victims in a way that endears them to an audience who really want them to make it out alive. It has been a banner year for horror, and the list of the year’s best just got one film longer.

A Quiet Place: Day One

  • Michael Sarnoski
  • Michael Sarnoski
  • John Krasinski
  • Bryan Woods
  • Joseph Quinn
  • Djimon Hounsou
  • Alex Wolff
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Michael SarnoskiJohn KrasinskiBryan WoodsJoseph QuinnDjimon HounsouAlex WolffDramaHorrorSci-Fi

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