A Quiet Place

April 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Movies

Given how low key John Krasinski’s remote family thriller “A Quiet Place” is, it might be a complete shocker that it was co-produced by Michael Bay. While there are flashes of explosions and explicit CGI, the best moments of the film are in its silence. Credit that to Krasinski and the cast, and the writing–that had to play all the notes you don’t hear.

The story takes place a few months after an apparent invasion of creatures that can attack by sound. Evidenced by numerous newspaper clippings (they apparently still will exist in 2020), we have figured that out, but can do nothing to stop them. Even the military gives up and says, “We can no longer protect you”. The Abbott family is couched away in the countryside of an unnamed area, away from the loud cities and condensed populations. We don’t get an “Independence Day” or “V” here. We get to see what an alien invasion would look like out in the middle of nowhere. Though touches of this were displayed by “10 Cloverfield Lane”, that was more of a “who’s the real monster?” type of creature feature.

Here, we know exactly who to root for and against. The creatures are lethal, gruesome, and horrifying. They look like a cross between a giant insect out of “The Mist”, and Venom. As said above, they hunt by sound only. Put up all the lights you want, cook all the fish you like, it won’t catch their attention. But scream, play with an electronic toy, or even run a TV with static–and, you’re dead.

When we’re introduced, the Abbotts have done a pretty good job of keeping up with how to protect themselves. Lee, the father (Krasinski), is very caring and attentive to his family of two boys and a girl–the girl, being deaf. His wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), becomes pregnant, complicating things further. But she, too, is protective and strong, and both of them appear to make a good team of husband/wife/mom/dad, to stave off the monsters. The young boy, Beau (Cade Woodward), is trying to be good, but is attracted to some things that can get you in trouble. We first spot them rummaging through an abandoned grocery store in town, finding things to provide sustenance. We also find later that they can still fish in the river nearby, and make food with grains and vegetables. But, they cannot eat on plates or with silverware. Yep, even those noises can attract the creatures.

After shopping, the family makes their way through a path, when suddenly it’s clear that Beau forgot to play by the rules. His brother Marcus (Noah Jupe) and deaf sister Regan (Millicent Simmonds, deaf in real life too), try to keep him safe. But the creatures are extremely deft, and it becomes a race for the father to try and save him.

We’re thrown about another year in, and now Evelyn is getting close to bearing a child. Lee has finished making a soundproof baby room in the basement, and also has developed a new hearing aid for Regan, who still thinks it’s a waste of time to do so. But, the hearing aid becomes an important plot point further in the story. And, it paints a good picture of Lee as a guy who really wants to do whatever he can to ensure his family survives. Obviously, a hearing aid will alert Regan to danger. Without that, she is oblivious to where the creatures are and when they can pounce on you.

What drives the stakes up for this family is how disconnected they are from civilization–Lee makes vain attempts to communicate through Morse code in his work room; and, the fact that they have a baby on the way makes it clear that no matter how quiet you can try to keep your kids, a newborn is nearly impossible. Not to mention, with no medical aid or hospital visits, it’s impossible to know when Evelyn’s going to give birth.

The writers know how to play with the sound complications as well–you can tell they must’ve drafted quite a bit of rewrites to get it accurate, because it’s completely believable in its execution. We are always on pins and needles, waiting for someone to stub their toe or run into something when they’re not looking–all the mundane things we’re vulnerable to. It’s interesting to note there’s a scene where birds are flying around, indicating that these things can’t fly obviously. They clearly would be affected by the sound of the birds, but they can’t kill them. Just a nice little touch added.

Krasinski’s direction is pitch perfect, always building tension and giving us white knuckles. The performances are outstanding; but probably the best is Blunt’s because of what she has to endure while trying to be quiet, but also carrying a human being inside her and protecting him when he’s born. Simmonds also does a great job of being very aware for someone who can’t hear. And it’s also nice to see that the whole family can speak in sign language, clearly showing how much they don’t consider Regan a handicap or a burden. They’re a loving family and we are fully invested emotionally in them.

And it is an emotional experience watching this film as much as it is visceral, and thrilling. The whole film works, throughout, never a dull moment, and never a moment where we’re waiting for that other shoe to drop. And once it does, and we’re seeing the creatures in full, it’s pretty terrifying.

My rating: :D

District 9

August 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured Content, Movies

It’s relieving to know that there are people in Hollywood like Peter Jackson that have some power now. I’ve always believed in the guy, going back to his “Beautiful Creatures” days. I saw “Meet the Feebles” after he had made it bigger (possibly because it wasn’t in DVD rotation until he started making some money) but he’s always had a passion for fantasy, sci-fi, and imaginative storylines. All you have to do is watch one of his films and you’ll know that within the first 10 minutes.

He and his production company put up pretty much all the money for this film directed and co-written by 29 year old Neill Blomkamp, which is about an alien spacecraft that “crash” lands in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the alien occupants become “citizens” of a quarantined area called “District 9?. Pretty much every implication of racism, apartheid, worth of life, and intolerance is explored throughout the narrative and it winds up a fairly clever, fun, and darkly comic fable that–while violent and at times very vulgar, is also charming.

The film’s first twenty-five or so minutes is a bit jarring, in that it flings different POV’s at you at random times, trying to give you an up-to-date idea of what’s going on in “District 9? through a series of interviews and documentary footage. The footage includes talks with Wikus van der Merwe, who eventually is identified as the “hero” of the film, or at least the main character. Wikus is introduced to us as somewhat of a “Company Man”, who is promoted to the head of a group of people to move the aliens out of “District 9? since the human occupants have had enough of them.

A little bit of info on the aliens themselves: they’re creatures that have insect-like qualities, and are extremely ugly. They’re referred to as “prawns”, a derogatory term because they resemble the underwater creatures themselves. There are gangs of these creatures, and they’ve overflowed the city of Johannesburg to the point where they are “sectioned off” and only allowed in certain areas. What does this remind us of? Of course, this is the main theme the film plays with, and it does so fairly well, even if it is a bit obvious.

No one wants these creatures around, and so this group of people have to attempt to get them out of “District 9?–but it’s not so easy, as Wikus learns quickly. Wikus is also married to the daughter of a powerful government official, who was in charge of promoting Wikus to his new position–but he has very little confidence in him, and doesn’t like him. It’s kind of obvious why–he’s an alpha male, and Wikus is a bit spineless. He doesn’t want a violent attack on the creatures while they evict them, but in the course of trying to evict one family, he is exposed to a black liquid that eventually begins to altar his body.

Wikus soon finds that he is becoming one of the creatures. He doesn’t want this to get out, but it eventually does, and he becomes a potential victim of science until he breaks out, and lives as a fugitive in “District 9?. Other things that are going on in District 9 include a group of rogue Nigerians who are buying and collecting the alien weaponry found on the spacecraft–the drawback is that no human can operate it. The Nigerians believe they can use witchcraft and “eat” parts of the aliens to get the power to use it, but to no avail. When Wikus shows up and his ailment is discovered, the Nigerians want him too–well, at least–they want his arm.

Wikus befriends a prawn that he earlier had to evict, and learns that he and his son have hatched a plan to get the spacecraft working again, and go back to their home planet. Wikus also learns that they can cure him and get him to be human again. Once the government learns his whereabouts, and the Nigerians as well, all hell breaks loose and this is where the film turns from an intellectual sci-fi film into balls out action packed shoot-em-up.

To be honest, this didn’t bother me. Much in the way that “Sunshine” devolved into a “slasher film”, the third act didn’t betray the original plot and theme and therefore, I didn’t have a problem with it becoming more of a visual experience rather than a cerebral one. Plus, it is just really cool to see the alien weaponry actually used. If you’re going to set it up, you have to pay it off, and it’s paid off very well.

In fact, the whole movie looks good. This is a credit to the fact that Jackson put up the money–this could’ve been a failed low budget sci-fi film that looked silly; or, it could’ve been a script that sat on a shelf for decades before being picked up by Michael Bay and turned into Transformers 3. Instead, this is a smart film that while it loses itself a bit in action packed violence, never loses itself to the point where you forget how important the theme is in the first place.

This is a movie about tolerance, and it’s executed well enough to be given praise. It deserves a chance to be seen, and I think if you have the right mindset, it may even open your eyes to some of the same problems we face in the real world. Even though these prawns are creatures, in some ways they’re no different than you or I. It promotes the idea of unity rather than segregation; only in this narrative it may be too late for that to happen. There’s been criticism that this film shows Nigerians in a negative light, and that it cheapens the angle of the Apartheid. I think because it’s science fiction, you have to look at it in a more symbolic sense rather than a literal one. As far as vilifying, it depends on how you look at it. I think the entire film gives enough credit to characters where it’s due, and only a few of the “villains” are cartoonish–and the most vile isn’t a Nigerian. Though the film does become more action packed, the film’s climax also leaves ambiguity; but its final scene is incredibly touching.

It’s probably the best movie the summer has to offer, and I have a feeling it will be passed over because of its complexity. But if you’re willing to give it a chance, it delivers.

My rating: :smile: