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A Quiet Place Day One review: Why stay alive in the apocalypse?

Djimon Hounsou as “Henri”, Lupita Nyong’o as “Samira” and Alex Wolff as “Reuben” in A Quiet Place: Day One

A Quiet Place: Day One finds a nice balance between spectacle and character, with a story far more personal than the marketing led on.

Director: Michael Sarnoski
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Survival
Run Time: 100′
Global Release: June 28, 2024
Watch A Quiet Place: Day One: in theaters

Whether it involves humanity fighting AI, aliens, monsters, or zombies, the post-apocalyptic survival thriller is a beloved corner of the horror genre. This may be the case because, deep down, we’d like to believe we could do the impossible to prevail amidst unthinkable situations and that we’d find our bravery in the process.

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place explored these themes through a remarkably refreshing concept: make a sound, and you’re a dead man. What made Krasinski’s films resonate with audiences wasn’t just a neat idea but that he kept them character-focused. The family dynamic in both movies is just as riveting, if not more so, than the horror itself. With A Quiet Place: Day One, the spectacle is more in your face, though without sacrificing characters.

Sam (Lupita Nyong’o, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) is a severely sick woman who finds herself in a crowded New York City during the early days of an invasion by alien creatures with ultrasonic hearing. With the help of a stranger named Eric (Joseph Quinn, Hoard) and her cat Frodo, Sam travels through the debris to get closure with her disease before abandoning the city for good.

When Michael Sarnoski was announced to helm a prequel to A Quiet Place about the early days of the franchise’s apocalyptic setting, it instantly sold me on the idea. Being familiar with his film Pig, I wondered if he could tell a similarly small story with a higher budget, and that’s exactly what A Quiet Place: Day One is. I expected a summer blockbuster portraying chaos, and that element is still present, but what I did not expect is a drama examining one’s mortality. Why stay alive in the apocalypse? Why is life worth fighting for even when the world is falling apart? We analyze these questions through Sam’s arc of a terminally ill woman fighting for closure before parting this life.

Lupita Nyong’o as “Samira” and Joseph Quinn as “Eric” in A Quiet Place: Day One
Lupita Nyong’o as “Samira” and Joseph Quinn as “Eric” in A Quiet Place: Day One from Paramount Pictures. (Paramount Pictures)

To nobody’s surprise, Lupita Nyong’o stuns with some of the year’s best acting. What she communicates through her eyes is enchanting, tender, and tragic. The character work she presents us with is so engaging that you forget you’re watching a monster flick, not a melancholic drama. The same goes for Djimon Hounsou (Gran Turismo), Joseph Quinn, and Alex Wolff (Oppenheimer). Hounsou and Wolff aren’t in it for long, but they do an exceptional job establishing stakes and urgency in the new apocalyptic world. If Nyong’o is the film’s anchor, then Quinn is its heart. Their contrast makes for a compelling duo as Sam fits the strong lead stereotype with nothing to lose, while Eric is the audience trying to find his courage. Their joint journey makes for an emotionally rewarding finale.

One of my criticisms of previous installments was the creatures themselves. The idea of having ultrasonic beings that can track your every move should make for intense horror. Yet, the execution is halfway there. The sound design and how they operate always left an impression, but their physical appearance just felt off. It didn’t feel as threatening or unique as their potential, plus it didn’t help that they looked like the Demogorgons from Stranger Things. Although the design remains the same in A Quiet Place: Day One, they are framed differently, thus making them stand out more. Cinematographer Patrick Sola keeps them in obscurity, showing their silhouettes through shadows or dust in Act One. It’s grounded and puts us in the POV of somebody seeing them for the first time.

A Quiet Place: Day One delivers on the emotion, but what about the spectacle, which, realistically, is what people are coming to see? Sarnoski is growing as a filmmaker. Pig is almost entirely a character study, so we don’t see Sarnoski’s eye for action in that one. Here, though, his vision shines as he paints his set pieces as bleak, dreadful things rather than exciting scenes to obsess over. You feel the weight of these creatures and the danger they pose to humanity, which may have been lacking in Krasinski’s films since the monsters are more normalized in those movies.

If you’re looking for a film this summer that will deliver thrills, laughs, and heart, then A Quiet Place: Day One might be the movie for you. Anchored by an excellent Lupita Nyong’o, it is a far smarter blockbuster that not only seeks to entertain but also asks questions of mortality, courage, and sacrifice. Plus, it’s got a lovely cat that seems better at surviving the apocalypse than any human being could. Who wouldn’t want to watch that?

A Quiet Place: Day One will be released globally in theaters on June 28, 2024. Read our reviews of A Quiet Place (2018) and A Quiet Place Part II!

A Quiet Place: Day One: Trailer (Paramount Pictures)
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