Silver Screen Cinema

A Quiet Place: Day One Review

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Photo of Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong'o

Paramount Pictures

Rated: PG-13

99 Minutes

Directed by: Michael Sarnoski

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn


A Quiet Place: Day One Poster

When John Krasinski co-wrote, co-starred, and directed the somewhat unassuming horror movie, A Quiet Place, in 2018, no one thought he had created an enduring franchise. But now, six years, one sequel, and one prequel later, many realize that Krasinski’s basic monster concept resembles much higher-budgeted franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek. They allow for an enormous number of canonical films that remain true to the basic premise, yet keep their freshness and originality. The only similar phenomenon I’ve seen this century has been the Purge movies and TV shows. Krasinski only serves as a producer of A Quiet Place: Day One. However, new writer/director Michael Sarnoski and a talented cast make this prequel a fitting addition to the growing franchise.

As the title implies, A Quiet Place: Day One takes place in the early days of the alien invasion of planet Earth. These creatures resemble a cross between a Xenomorph from the Alien movies and a furless, anorexic gorilla with hands and feet like spiked horses’ hooves.  The aliens are 

blind but gifted with extraordinary hearing. When they detect any noise, they scamper to the source, and if they determine it to be human, the resulting encounter is usually short and fatal. They have another weakness. They can’t swim, as one creature learns in one of the film’s most enjoyable and suspenseful scenes. Those “rules,” like the description of a vampire’s strengths and weaknesses, haven’t changed in three movies, and the surviving humans pick up on them rather quickly here.

The protagonist of A Quiet Place: Day One is an unusual but effective choice. Sam (Lupita Nyong’o) is a terminal cancer patient at a New Jersey hospice. She’s bright, but cynical and sarcastic. When Reuben, a facility caregiver (Alex Wolff), arranges a day trip to New York City to see a show, Sam reluctantly agrees after Reuben promises to take her for pizza at Patsy’s (a famous Harlem pizzeria) afterward.

To paraphrase the words of Lloyd Bridges in the Airplane movies: “Looks like I picked a bad day to visit New York City.” Reuben’s show is a marionette performance that irritates Sam (and anyone over ten in the audience). Then, when the hospice patients leave to re-board their bus, the aliens arrive in the form of vapor trails in the sky, followed by occasional crashes of strange objects in the street. There’s a brief, often confusing firefight between soldiers and aliens, in which the aliens quickly chomp on a soldier whenever they make any noise. (Authorities responded quickly enough to get armored vehicles into Manhattan on seemingly a moment’s notice, a neat trick.) The military has the foresight to bomb all the bridges connecting Manhattan with the mainland, trapping the creatures and thousands of helpless humans on the island. Periodic alarms inform survivors to gather near the water so boats can take them to safety.

Sam survives the initial alien onslaught but faces two equally grim futures: a quick death from the teeth of an alien or a somewhat slower but more painful death from cancer (she has no more pain meds). But she still has unfinished business, that last pizza from Patsy’s. Reuben and the bus aren’t around to take her, so Sal sets off on foot on a seemingly quixotic quest. She soon gains a companion. A British transfer student named Eric (Joseph Quinn) is wandering aimlessly around when he spots Sam and latches onto her like an abandoned puppy.

A Quiet Place: Day One had a limited budget, and director Sarnoski avoids the enormous set pieces you’d see in a Michael Bay production in favor of a few moments that suggest what happened when the army took on the aliens. Then, the hustle and bustle of New York City are replaced by an eerie quiet for most of the film. The film’s second half is primarily a series of encounters and near misses between Sam, Eric, and the aliens. As I mentioned earlier, the most suspenseful of these occurs when the humans have to swim through a flooded subway tunnel with a creature in pursuit. The PG-13 film avoids showing gory deaths but creates scares by having the soundtrack amplify any noise Sam or Eric make, soon followed by an enormous thump denoting the arrival of the pursuing creatures. The director also minimizes the humans’ vision advantage by staging encounters at night or, in one scene, in a shower of debris reminiscent of the nuclear snow at Hiroshima.

Sam and Eric bond (no real spoiler here), but their friendship is more than the usual camaraderie between survivors in a disaster film. It’s hard to show the development of a friendship evidenced mainly by gestures and occasional whispered dialogue. The director counts on the audience to believe in the friendship because they want to believe in it. For the most part, the concept works. Eric never becomes more than a two-dimensional nice guy with a gift for card tricks, but that’s because of the limitations inherent in the movie’s structure. The big revelation, which I won’t spoil, is Sam’s reason for her trek to Patsy’s. It’s more than a desire for some five-star pizza; it provides the film’s most powerful emotional moments.

I haven’t mentioned the unsung co-star of A Quiet Place: Day One, Frodo the Cat. He’s Sam’s support cat who accompanies her on her entire journey from New Jersey to Patsy’s (including the underwater swim). If cats have nine lives, Frodo must have 109 because he gets through more potential death traps than Sam and Eric combined. According to the closing credits, two cats shared the acting honors for portraying Frodo, but he is the most valuable cast member. He humanizes the cynical Sam and gives audiences more of a rooting interest than just Eric and Sam. Audiences don’t mind humans, even likable ones, getting killed in these types of movies, but they draw the line at lovable animals.

Those expecting A Quiet Place: Day One to be a typical origin story will be disappointed. Audiences got more of a feel for the aliens’ arrival in A Quiet Place Part II, which began with their landing in a small town and terrorizing the inhabitants. Instead, Day One is another survival tale of a handful of humans in this monster-laden universe. The story takes place earlier than the original movie, with different characters, but the basic layout is the same. That means the film provides the audience with an entertaining but unexceptional experience. The relatable main characters give the movie a wider appeal than the typical monster film. Don’t keep quiet; recommend A Quiet Place: Day One to your friends.

In this clip, Lupita Nyong'o introduces viewers to Nico and Schnitzel, who played Frodo in A Quiet Place: Day One:

Watch A Quiet Place on Amazon Prime Video:

A Quiet Place Streaming
A Quiet Place Part II Streaming
A Quiet Place Collection Streaming

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