George Lucas was once quoted as saying that “sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie”. Which is why the great filmmakers of the last 50 years have made it paramount that the sound design have more and more pronounced roles in big budget filmmaking. However, when Lucas said this he was not advocating for the blanket of sounds and spectacle. He was pointing out the importance of sound in evoking an emotional response with your audience. Steven Spielberg became a master of this craft with movies like ‘Jaws’ and ‘Jurassic Park’, and even his more serious dramas like ‘Saving Private Ryan’ or ‘Schindler’s List’. Not because of his blanket soundscapes, but because he understood when to use sound and when to use silence.
Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick used the same style to great effect in horror movies like ‘Alien’ and ‘The Shining’. Yet, for much of this century, filmmakers have used silent tension as a pause until the next jump scare or as a way to get around budgets they didn’t have. So, when John Krasinski brought us ‘A Quiet Place’ a few years ago, it truly was a breathe of fresh air. It was a film that managed to balance the post apocalyptic genre with a very human story and it brought back a type of Hollywood filmmaking that felt like it had been missing. The film was short, had very little dialogue, and let characters faces do much of the talking. The rest was filled in with glorious silence and fear inducing sound. It was damn near perfect.
So, how do you follow that up? Well, the safest bet is to continue with what already worked, but that’s not exactly what Krasinski does here. The film still has all the brilliant uses of silence and the humanity in its characters, but it also decides to open by taking us back to the beginning. Much like Neil Druckman’s amazing video game ‘The Last of Us’ or Stephen King’s novel ‘Cell’ (the book, not the terrible movie), Krasinski develops his characters lives through the simple interactions of characters. From a plot standpoint, this sequence is smart because we get a glimpse at a new character who will fill out as the film’s male protagonist. That character is a family friend named Emmett and he was expertly cast as Cillian Murphy.
However, this opening sequence does so much more than just set up plot. It works to remind us of the man that Lee Abbott (Krasinski) was, the previous dynamic of their family, the relative size of the small town they live, and the horror of what drove everybody into silence. It’s one of the best invasion sequences in film history and it’s worth the price of admission alone. What follows this sequence is a tightly written story of children trying to live up to their parents belief in them and the consequences that come with that. It’s simple and told with very little dialogue, but it’s poignant. It’s also filled with unforgettable sequences of tension and raw emotion.
It’s also a showcase for some fantastic acting by the talented cast. Everyone knows that Emily Blunt is a force to be reckoned with and she was nominated for a SAG award for the first film, but it’s the kids that truly get a chance to shine here.
Both Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmond’s deliver performances that will tug at the audiences heartstrings and leave them gasping for air. In fact, my wife had quite a hard time catching her breathe from the tension and worry she had for these children’s lives.
This is level of emotional experience is exactly what you want from a horror film or a thriller. Hell, it’s what you want from any film. I am so glad that they waited to release this movie on the big screen and with the potential for a real audience. This film was made to be experienced in theaters and I hope everyone flocks to the theater to go see it this Memorial Day weekend.