Review of “A Quiet Place”

Life on Earth is under attack from an alien creature that appears to have come here on board a meteor that crashed in Mexico. Covered in an apparently impenetrable exoskeleton, the creatures can’t see but have incredibly sensitive hearing. The slightest noise over and above the background gets their attention. They also can move very fast and have a mouth full of long sharp teeth. The aliens make life difficult for the survivors but the Abbott family is doing the best they can. Lee (John Krasinski), Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their kids Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward) live a life of silence and slow methodical movements. Beau being a child of about five can’t grasp all the dangers of this new world and makes a fatal mistake. While walking back to their home from town to get an ailing Marcus some antibiotics, Beau pulls out a toy he picked up at the drug store operated by batteries and turns it on. The model of the space shuttle makes a siren-like sound and attracts the aliens. Despite Lee’s efforts to save Beau he dies. A year later the family is continuing to scrape by at the farm they live on. Lee works on Regan’s cochlear implant trying to get it working again. He has made numerous efforts to repair it and failed. Regan, who gave Beau the toy after her father had taken it away from him and removed the batteries, feels Lee blames her for Beau’s death. He doesn’t but the stress of their life and Regan becoming a teenager is leading to conflicts. Lee has a workshop and security center set up in the basement of their home. He has monitors showing security camera feeds along with a shortwave radio he uses to try and contact anyone in the outside world. Evelyn is pregnant and due to deliver in a few weeks adding another threat to their silent life. Color-coded lights, sound-dampening sand on their pathways and communicating through American Sign Language might not be enough to keep this family together and alive.

The first trailer for “A Quiet Place” had me intrigued. The next trailer had me excited and dreading seeing the film a bit. Films that build tension and have you constantly guessing where the next threat will come from can be exhausting exercises. Found footage horror movies have worn me out in this regard as they never end happily, just with the promise of more fear and dread coming in the sequel. “A Quiet Place” manages to pile on the dread while giving you a glimmer of hope. It also tells an emotional family story that is punctuated by ravenous unstoppable monsters. It’s the best of both worlds.

John Krasinski not only stars but co-wrote and directed “A Quiet Place.” He is truly a triple threat in this film. His script is of course short on words. Most of the time communication is done via America Sign Language along with body movements. This forces the story to be told in other imaginative ways. We get the backstory from newspaper headlines we see in Lee’s security center. There a white board with scribbled facts about the monster and a desperate looking phrase “What is the WEAKNESS?” We see the weary looks on both Lee and Evelyn’s faces knowing they constantly worry about their day-to-day survival along with the future of their children. They all have dirty fingernails from having to do hard labor just to provide the basic necessities of life and they can’t waste precious resources like water for bathing and electricity to heat the water. The children are at times tired, frustrated and angry at their lives. We know they are both approaching puberty and that is hard enough when you don’t have monsters trying to hunt you down. The beauty of this script is storylines spin off within the mind of the viewer from watching these people exist. It isn’t all about the monsters as they really play a very minor role in the film. It’s about the family and the work they have to do to survive plus the struggles of just getting along. Krasinski along with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck have put a great deal of thought and work into their script and story even if there aren’t many words.

The performances of real life married couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are powerful and amazing. The love and desire this couple feels in their lives is clearly used to make their characters more connected and believable. There’s a scene where she makes him dance with her and they share a pair of earbuds from a portable music player. Their slow swaying and embrace may bring a tear to your eye as they share a rare moment of quiet passion. Lee winds up dancing more with the baby bump than his wife by the end of the scene but it is still a sweet and touching moment.

As good and Krasinski and Blunt are they are overshadowed by the amazing performance of Millicent Simmonds. Ms. Simmonds is deaf in real life. Her performance is all through her face, her motions and the way she communicates with sign language. A scene between her and Krasinski where he is giving her a hearing aid he had been working on is a prime example of just how good an actress Simmonds is. Her movements and body language show her anger, her impatience and her pain. Regan believes her father blames her for Beau’s death. While he doesn’t, he hasn’t made the extra effort to show her he loves her. All this is seen in this brief interaction between a father and daughter and that is due mostly to Millicent Simmonds talent. I hope her hearing doesn’t keep her from getting more roles as she is very talented.

It’s time for “Stan Thinks Too Much” corner. This alien invasion appears to have decimated the population and caused the collapse of infrastructure but the survivors still manage to have electricity. We never see a generator and of course that would cause lots of noise. It might be solar but we never see any panels. It seems unlikely the power grid would still be functioning so I wonder how they keep the lights on and the water flowing? Also during a scene in the film Evelyn manages to escape from one of the creatures by leaving a kitchen timer in the back of the room so the alien would chase that noise. Why didn’t they keep other noisemaking devices on them so they could set them off and throw them in the opposite direction for the monsters to chase? The ending of the film also made me wonder why it hadn’t been thought of before. I don’t want to give anything away but the method to kill these creatures seems perfectly clear from the first time you see them as they listen for the slightest noise out of the ordinary. And that concludes “Stan Thinks Too Much” corner.

“A Quiet Place” is rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody images. There are several times when members of the family are stalked by the creatures. We see a raccoon get smashed by a monster with an accompanying splash of blood. We see a body in the forest that has been attack with a gaping wound in its side. There’s some blood associated with the birth of a baby. The monster’s anatomy is a bit disgusting to look at. There is no foul language as there is very little language of any kind.

John Krasinski has created a rare and wonderful thing: A horror movie that is both smart and scary. It also manages to be warm, emotional and mostly about a family just trying to survive. It works on just about every level. While I do have some questions and “I wonder why’s” about a few things they don’t take away from what is a fantastically tense movie. See it friends or in a full theater for a complete experience.

“A Quiet Place” gets five stars.

Next week I’ll be reviewing “Borg vs. McEnroe” for WIMZ.com.

I’ll also review one of the follow for this webpage:

Rampage—

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero—

Truth or Dare—

Listen for the latest news for movies, streaming and TV on The Fractured Frame available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Suburbicon”

Nicky Lodge (Noah Jupe) is an average kid living in an average house in the average neighborhood of Suburbicon. His father Gardner (Matt Damon) works in insurance. His mother Rose (Julianne Moore) is in a wheelchair after an automobile accident. His Aunt Margaret (also Julianne Moore) is visiting overnight when two men, Ira and Louis (Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell) enter the home, tie everyone up and kill Rose with an overdose of chloroform. It seems Gardner owes the men money and hasn’t paid it back yet so the murder of Rose was a warning. Aunt Margaret moves into the Lodge home to help Gardner raise Nicky. Officer Hightower (Jack Conley) tells Gardner to come down to the station and look at a lineup based on his description of the robbers. Margaret brings Nicky to the station because he doesn’t want to stay at the house alone. While Ira and Louis are in the lineup neither Gardner nor Margaret tells police who they are. Nicky is confused and wonders what his father and aunt are up to. Meanwhile, the Mayers family has moved into Suburbicon and caused quite a stir with the neighbors as they are black and this is 1959. The Mayers house backs up to the Lodge house and Nicky and Andy Mayers (Tony Espinosa), a boy about Nicky’s age, have become friends. Crowds gather at the Mayers house, making noise, banging drums and yelling at the family inside to move as they don’t want their kind in Suburbicon.

Whenever Joel and Ethan Coen are involved in the making of a movie I get excited. “Suburbicon” is a script the brothers wrote back in 1986 but it has only now been turned into a film by frequent Coen Brothers collaborator George Clooney. Clooney, along with writer Grant Heslov, added some story elements and Clooney directed. Perhaps George and Grant should have left the script alone because “Suburbicon” feels like a two different stories that have been forcefully fused together against their will.

The trailer for “Suburbicon” makes the movie look like a madcap crime caper and parts of the film have that tone; however, much of what is suggested in the trailer misrepresents what happens in the film with clever editing suggesting one thing is in reaction to another when the events are unrelated. Anyone walking into the movie expecting a somewhat more violent version of “Raising Arizona” is going to be disappointed. “Suburbicon” is far darker than the trailer suggests.

It is also uneven with a subplot about the community trying to force a black family to leave feeling very shoehorned into the film. It is a ham-fisted attempt by Clooney to make us see that what is the focus of public anger usually isn’t the real problem. While everyone in the neighborhood believes the black family is bringing in an unsavory element, the nice white family across the way is being terrorized by thugs because of the actions of the father. It screams hypocrisy and intolerance in a very clumsy way. Clooney has proven he is a very good movie director so it puzzles me why this effort is so uneven. I would like to know more about the creative process to put this film together because large parts of it are really good. That’s not to say the sections involving the black family isn’t good; but it just feels like it’s from a different movie.

It’s a shame the film is a bit of a mess since Matt Damon is so good as the morally corrupted Gardner Lodge. Lodge is a man that thinks he’s far smarter than he actually is; however, he quickly shows he’s quite dumb by not paying off the loan shark. Perhaps that is part of a larger plan; but even so, it spectacularly blows up in his face. Lodge is pushed further and further into bad decisions as the story progresses and is always trying to solve problems caused by other efforts to solve problems. Damon plays Lodge constantly seething with anger and on the verge of exploding. Like a good person of the period, he stuffs his rage down deep in his soul and tries to keep it bottled up. Should it be released well, people might talk and think poorly of him down at the lodge or church. Damon is infuriating as Lodge since most of his issues could be solved with one call to the police; but we know he’ll never make that call as he is a coward looking to avoid as much trouble as possible. Damon gives Lodge a boyish charm that gives him at least one redeeming quality, keeping the audience from hating him totally.

Julianne Moore is both Rose and Margaret but since the former is killed early in the film I’ll be talking mostly about her performance as the latter. Moore is stunningly creepy as the surrogate mother and wife. There is a streak of cruelty that runs through the character that turns what could have been a throwaway role into something meaningful and dangerous. Margaret is clearly mentally ill and is teetering on the edge of a breakdown throughout the film. Moore is masterful at portraying damaged characters and this one is clearly broken from almost the first time we see her.

The performances are somewhat hampered by a plot that moves at a leisurely pace. It takes too long to introduce the meat of the story after the misdirection of the black family’s arrival in town and the full story of what’s going on is never fully explained. We know Lodge owes money to the thugs but we don’t know what he got the money for. Are the thugs small time players or are they more heavily connected? Are Gardner and Margaret involved prior to the events in the film or only after? Gardner was driving the night of the car accident that put Rose in the wheelchair but did he do it on purpose to try and collect on her life insurance? There are a great many loose threads dangling by the end of the film with no satisfactory answers for any of them.

“Suburbicon” is rated R for some sexuality, language and violence. There is poisoning, strangling, stabbing and other violence shown with some of it being very bloody. There is a riot that breaks out at the Mayers’ home with windows shattered and fires set. The sexuality is limited to a scene where Nicky walks in on Gardner and Margaret having a mildly kinky scene. Foul language is scattered.

There’s a really good movie embedded in “Suburbicon” that could have been the dark and violent domestic drama that the Coen’s made famous in “Fargo” and “Blood Simple.” Sadly, the addition of a needless subplot about racism and a languid pace put “Suburbicon” on the lower end of “Best Coen Brothers’ Movies” scale. Great performances from Matt Damon and Julianne Moore almost are wasted. It isn’t the best movie but it does have its redeeming qualities. If you have the patience check it out.

“Suburbicon” gets three stars out of five.

This week, there’s a rare Wednesday opening for a sequel and the arrival of the next Marvel flick. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

A Bad Mom’s Christmas—

Thor: Ragnarok—

Listen to The Fractured Frame podcast where ever you download your podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.