Review: A Quiet Place: Day One

Three entries in, and the franchise has never been quieter than in A Quiet Place: Day One. I’m not talking about the actual volume, which predictably hits the peaks and valleys that were hallmarks of the first two films directed by John Krasinski. Instead, A Quiet Place: Day One is quieter in its sensibilities than its predecessors. This series has always placed relationships at its heart, with the threat of alien attack looming over the family led by Emily Blunt’s character as they try to build a life in a broken world and simply survive. Michael Sarnoski’s prequel has a handful of jump scares and a few thrilling set pieces, but it is even more concerned with how people interact and connect amidst a disaster. A Quiet Place: Day One is less of a horror movie than A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place Part II — and that’s not a bad thing. This is a different, slightly gentler beast, which makes sense given that it’s written and directed by the man who made Pig. Like that Nicolas Cage delight, this one has elements of a thriller but sits more squarely in character-driven drama territory for most of its running time. 

What else sets it apart from the two earlier films is that its central character doesn’t have the built-in support (and accompanying danger) of a nuclear family in the midst of an apocalypse. Unlike the Everetts of A Quiet Place and its sequel, A Quiet Place: Day One, Samira (Lupita Nyong’o) is alone in this world even before catastrophe strikes down from the sky. She’s self-admittedly mean, lavishing affection only on her cat while pushing away the people around her. When aliens arrive and attack New York City, Samira continues striking out on her own, trying to trek uptown while avoiding both the invaders and other people, including Eric (Joseph Quinn), who refuses to leave her alone.

At times, A Quiet Place: Day One displays an endearing fidelity to the city it’s set in. It boasts some knowledge that will appeal to New York’s eight million residents, including name-checking one of its classic pizza joints. Yet the film has a tourist’s sense of New York City geography that overrides its bona fides, giving the air of a recent transplant from Ohio who mostly hangs out in the Lower East Side. However, apart from its questionable sense of direction, the biggest question it raises is reminiscent of Signs: why would an alien race that cannot swim choose to land on a planet that is 71% water? Similarly logic-defying are some of the actions of its characters, but it’s also really easy for me to judge how people react in an emergency from the comfort of a movie theater lounger where the crinkling of my bag of candy doesn’t invite certain death. 

A Quiet Place: Day One adds a bit to the franchise lore, but it’s less interested in the aliens than with the relationships between these humans and what makes life worth living, even in a crisis. (The answer is pizza, which is an unsurprising sentiment from the director of Pig.) The series continues to be concerned with how vulnerabilities and human connection at once affect our ability to survive (for better and worse) and also make us who we are. The first two examined that from the angle of a family whose child with deafness meant that they could communicate without spoken words, turning what was seen as a disability into an advantage. The presence of children — and especially a baby — also conferred a set of risks while bringing joy. A Quiet Place: Day One comes at the question from a different direction as its sole center, Samira, sees the weaknesses of those around her and figures her best shot at survival is isolation (except for the presence of her cat). 

We mostly care this time around because of Oscar winner Nyong’o, who excels with the relatively limited dialogue and speaks volumes with her emotive face. Samira deftly walks the line of likability; she says some real mean shit in the first act, but there’s still so much to latch onto with this character who has been through so much even before the world goes to hell.

A Quiet Place: Day One may not fully satisfy those who only come for the franchise’s chills, but it expands upon the universe in interesting ways for those viewers who don’t just need to leap out of their seats. Sarnoski isn’t content to merely do more of the same that we saw from Krasinski’s first two entries, and his own style and approach don’t get lost in the leap from an indie to this presumptive blockbuster. A Quiet Place: Day One feels human and like it was made by one, which is both a risk and a real win in the world of studio movies. 

“A Quiet Place: Day One” is in theaters today.

Kimber Myers is a freelance film and TV critic for 'The Los Angeles Times' and other outlets. Her day job is at a tech company in their content studio, and she has also worked at several entertainment-focused startups, building media partnerships, developing content marketing strategies, and arguing for consistent use of the serial comma in push notification copy.

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