A Quiet Place: Day One Review

A Quiet Place: Day One opens in theaters on Friday, June 28.

It’s impressive how great “A Quiet Place: Day One” is. That’s not to say that the first two Quiet Place films weren’t good, they’re both solid films in their own right. But this spinoff/prequel to those earlier films introduces new characters in a new setting that manages to up the tension and emotional impact of John Krasinski’s nearly dialogue-free horror films. The result is the best film in the series to date.

As the title suggests, Day One takes us back to the beginning, to the day when sightless aliens with razor-sharp hearing first crash-landed on Earth. Yes, we saw some of that invasion happen in the apocalyptic prologue to A Quiet Place Part II, but the big difference here is the change of scene: where that scene takes place in a small town in upstate New York, the events of Day One take place in midtown Manhattan. This change gives the event a different feel, which only expands as the film charts the first steps toward the post-apocalyptic world established in the first two films.

Our main character this time is Samira (Lupita Nyong’o), who is in the city on a day trip during a period of personal crisis. As fate would have it, she won’t be taking a bus home that afternoon, due to nightmarish creatures that appear and mercilessly eliminate any human they hear in their vicinity. A proven talent, Nyong’o won an Oscar for a reason. However, perhaps because she has only made a few films since her breakout performance in 12 years a slaveEvery new role she takes on feels like a reminder of how great an actress she is and how easily she carries the screen. The opening scenes of A Quiet Place: Day One show what Samira’s life is like and the impulsive hostility she is sometimes capable of – an effective explanation of the reasons for her behavior. But it’s Nyong’o’s performance that bears the brunt of hooking us to her so quickly, that we’re invested in her even before the world begins to end.

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As the survivors of the initial alien attack try to comprehend what happened and how quiet they needed to be to avoid detection, Samira finds a new focus. She knows exactly where you want to travel to in the city. Its logic becomes clearer as time goes by, and by this point, writer-director Michael Sarnoski (who replaced Krasinski, who returns as executive producer and takes credit for the titular “Story From”) has fully immersed us in this story, grounding a gruesome premise into an emotional core. I can sympathize with him.

Sarnosky pulled a similar trick in his first film of 2021 pig, turning the story of Nicolas Cage tracking down his stolen pet searching for a pig into something very sympathetic and emotional. Other Quiet Place films have their own powerful and emotional moments, but Day One manages to go deeper. In a film that uses dialogue sparingly, Sarnosky and his talented cast manage to convey a lot through brief but meaningful glances and little observations. The prequel highlights the terrible, almost impossible plight of its heroes. Can you really stay still while moving fast? Or if you are in terrible pain? Or if you’re just terrified? There are many heart-wrenching moments that illustrate the scale of this ordeal, and why so many will not survive it.

This is especially true when Samira meets British law student Eric (Joseph Quinn). Barely holding it together, Eric clings to Samira. He coyly follows her around, whether she likes it or not, and their dynamic adds more heart to the first day. We see how Eric and Samira quickly establish a real relationship, even though they can’t talk to each other. Quinn is great at showing Eric’s sweetness and vulnerability through his actions, rather than any grand monologue, and proves to be the perfect scene partner for Nyong’o.

The first day highlights the terrible, almost impossible plight of the film’s heroes.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the emotional components of A Quiet Place: Day One, so I should also point out that this movie is genuinely scary and often quite intense. (It gets an extra jolt in IMAX, where the sound design really made me feel like I was in the middle of a city under siege.) There are great scenes throughout that build up the tension, like when our heroes have to travel through a world. Flooded subway tunnel. When the aliens attack, it’s brutal and unforgettable — and this is one of the more difficult PG-13 films in recent memory. Sarnoski gets a lot of visual attention from the creatures swarming the streets of New York and darting through skyscrapers, which is especially impressive considering how many other monster movies have used the city as their backdrop. There is a real scaremongering about this as a reasonable look at how people react to a situation beyond their understanding and beyond their control.

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Day 1 is a two-fight affair between Nyong’o and Quinn, although Alex Wolff (who worked with Sarnoski on Pig) does a good job in a smaller role. Djimon Hounsou also shows up to reprise his role as Henri from A Quiet Place Part II – the only real attempt to create more connective tissue to the larger Quiet Place franchise. It’s fan service, but to the film’s credit there’s no startling foreshadowing of what Henry’s future holds. (You can completely enjoy the first day without any prior knowledge of a quiet place.)

There is another important character: Frodo, Samira’s therapy cat. As a cat lover, I was nervous about Frodo from the beginning, as this is a film series that begins with the death of a young boy. I won’t say whether or not Frodo will make it out alive, but I will say that the two cats who play him, Nico and Schnitzel, give excellent performances. Certainly the extent to which Frodo never meows or screams – no matter what is happening around him – requires a massive suspension of disbelief. Look, I have cats, and they really won’t shut up when they’re hungry. But Frodo is built differently, okay?

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