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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



A Quiet Place, Review: Silence is Golden

A Quiet Place, Review: Silence is Golden

In 2017, the world undergoes lockdown as blind monsters search for victims by sound. The few survivors of an unknown attack in New York appear as the Abbott family, who are visiting a supermarket, while maintaining total silence. The family is mourning the death of Beau, a victim to the monsters a year earlier.

Back home, following several prior encounters, the monsters become aware of the family’s presence while Lee Abbott develops a sound-proof device, assuming it to be the monsters’ weakness. In spite of granting this to his deaf daughter Regan, and insistence that Beau’s death was not her fault, tensions develop between Regan and Lee, causing her to feel isolated in the shadow of her brother Marcus, who does not suffer from the hearing disability and is normal in all aspects.

That night, in result of her sudden birth pangs and her stepping on an upturned nail from a staircase plank, Evelyn, despite attempts of silence, eventually succumbs to her pain, resulting in her screaming, and attraction of the monsters. Lee and Marcus attempt to divert it, even as Evelyn give birth to their third son. She demands that Lee leave her and go search for their kids. He discovers them at an abandoned barn-house and sends them to safety. But the monster is still lurking around.

Actor, producer and writer John Krasinski (Brief Interviews with Hideous Men) has co-written the screenplay with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, both of who had written the story. Beck and Woods began working on the story in 2013. The concept of parents protecting their children from huge menaces appealed to Krasinski, especially since he and his wife, Emily Blint, had had their second child at the time. Blunt encouraged him to direct the film. By March 2017, Paramount bought Beck and Woods's spec script. The studio hired Krasinski to rewrite the script and to direct the film, which was his third directorial credit, and his first for a major studio. Blunt read Krasinski's draft and asked him if she could be cast opposite him in the film. He agreed, and they were both cast in the starring roles of the film.

A Quiet Place is as about taut and suspenseful as any horror/supernatural film can get. Dystopian to the core, it apparently uses the “keep mum” credo to underline the fact that socio-political protests are subdued in real life, which is why most of us are forced to keep mum. No matter what the odds, we still need to speak up and take a stand. The decision to restrict the narrative to just four main characters, and include only a few passing cameos, has worked well. There is only one flaw in the unfolding of events, and that concerns the use of the hearing aid. Excellent use is made of props like the bath-tub, nails, lights, TVs, amplifiers and more. Krasinki cites Jaws as an inspiration, I find Wait Until Dark as a huge influence. About the ending, I was dissatisfied, because it showed goof, caring, loving humans partly losing to monsters. Or are they going to set that right in a sequel? Wait Until...

John Krasinski  (13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, The Hollars, Detroit) as Lee Abbott is a study in underscored excellence. A handful of awards might be on their way for him and for his screen and real-life wife, Emily Blunt (Sicario, The Huntsman: Winter's War, The Girl on the Train), who plays a pregnant mother of two, after one child was lost. Their emoting is minutely controlled, and yet betrays no trace of method acting. In the climax, your heart goes out to Krasinski.

Millicent Simmonds is Regan, the deaf daughter, a deaf actress in reality. It is for her that the family communicates in American Sign Language, to avoid generating any sound. Simmonds helped teach ASL to her fellow actors and comes across as a regular, trained actress. Noah Jupe plays Marcus, son of Lee and Evelyn and Regan’s brother. Krasinski noticed Jupe in the 2016 mini-series The Night Manager, and later got to see an early screening of the 2017 film Suburbicon, to evaluate Jupe's performance, before casting him. And some performer he is!

Technically, the film is a landmark. It is silent for a large part, but when it gets to a sound-track, music by Marco Beltrami (Logan, Ben Hur, The Wolverine), and the sound handling by a 16-member team, is perfect. So also Cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Far From the Madding Crowd, Fences, The Girl on the train) and Editing by Christopher Tellefsen (Analyze This, Moneyball, Assassin’s Creed).

More convincing than any other supernatural horror tale I have seen a long time, A Quiet Place is a mouse that roared. Silence is golden, but, nevertheless, get ready to applaud John Krasinski. For just under 90 minutes, he extrapolates on screen what sound, or the absence of it, can do to the characters, and to filmgoers the world over.

Rating: ****


Coming up: Peter Rabbit

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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