At the Movies with Alan Gekko: A Quiet Place: Day One “2024”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: A Quiet Place: Day One “2024”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/Genre: Apocalyptic Horror/Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff, Djimon Hounsou, Eliane Umuhire, and Frodo the Cat as himself/Runtime: 99 minutes

Among the many lessons that I have had the privilege of being taught during my time as a film reviewer of some skill and talent, there is one that I think is extremely beneficial to remember here. That being that a film can most assuredly find a way to surprise you be it in a way that is good, a way that is bad, or in a way that makes you need at least 10 shots of espresso in the hopes that you’ll even begin to forget what you just witnessed. The reason I bring this up to you dear reader is because the 2018 slice of cinema A Quiet Place is definitely a wonderful and fairly recent…ish example of the first category of cinematic surprise. Indeed here is a slice of cinema that, even with a budget of only 17 million dollars, might have seemed to be a bit of a gamble for Paramount Pictures. Incredibly though, the film wound up not only becoming a critical darling, but also a financial success to the tune of 341 million worldwide and even gave lead actor John Krasinski (at that time best known for his role as Jim Halpert in the American take on The Office) an unexpected 2nd wind as an incredibly skilled director. Oh and it also turned out to be an incredible and genuinely terrifying film as well. It should come as no surprise then to learn that a sequel was quickly put into commission and it too managed to be a critical and financial success despite not only a higher budget of about 55-61 million, but also the fact that the film’s initial release found itself being delayed due completely to a little teeny tiny thing called the COVID pandemic. As a result, not only was another sequel announced with a release date (as of this writing) planned for some time in 2025, but a spin-off/prequel was also revealed to be in the works too known as A Quiet Place: Day One. A film that, big surprise coming your way here, also happens to be the same slice of cinema that I am reviewing for you today incidentally. Yet despite the love I have for this now-franchise I must admit that, much like I was with the release of the first film, I was a bit on the apprehensive side about this movie. Not only because the 2nd film already gave us a fairly good look at how the nightmare at the heart of this franchise began, but because helmer of the first 2 John Krasinski was turning the reigns over to a director whose only other credit was an, admittedly incredibly solid, indie film about Nicholas Cage looking for a pig that was stolen from him. Having seen the finished product however, I can safely say that I was wrong for fearing the worst. To be sure, this film is by no means a flawless viewing experience, but even so there is also no denying that with the aid of solid work on both sides of the camera, A Quiet Place: Day One is a taut and engaging film that is sure to leave you engaged and on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

The plot is as follows: Taking place in the same universe as the first two films, A Quiet Place: Day One once again winds the clock back to the very first day of the aliens arriving on our planet whilst also transporting the action and chaos to no less a locale than New York City. It is here amidst the hustle and bustle of yet another busy and chaotic day that we meet our heroine by the name of Sam. A woman who at one time was an individual who loved life and everything about it yet, for reasons that I shan’t spoil for you here, has seen that love slowly but surely dimmed to the point of near extinction. As a result, we see that the individual we are following here is someone who is not only a shell of their former self, but also someone who at best is simply going through the motions and at worst is just waiting for her life to be done and over with so she can escape the pain that it has brought her for good. Yet even with this hanging over head, we still see that there might actually be a few things left in this life that our heroine would like to do. Perhaps this is why we see that, when invited by an employee at the facility that she has become a resident of to go on a group outing to Manhattan, we see that she decides to tag along with her service animal, a rather adorable cat by the name of Frodo, coming with on the trip as well. Unfortunately for both Sam as well as everyone else both on the trip and in seemingly all of New York City this day isn’t going to be your typical day where the only thing you might have to worry about is either a pile-up on 34th Street, the server at your local Starbucks getting your name, or the NYPD towing your car because you accidentally parked in a no-parking zone the night before. This is because it isn’t long into the group outing that we, along with our heroine, watch in horror as a wave of meteors make impact throughout the city which is then quickly followed up by the arrival of a deadly, quite ruthless, and seemingly endless stream (yet eerily familiar in some way) of alien creatures that begin tearing through the populace with a vengeance. Thus what may have started as a simple day trip into the city for a little bit of relaxation has now turned into a rather intriguing journey. One that will see our heroine, her cat, and a fellow survivor of the aliens’ initial onslaught by the name of Eric engage in a desperate and distinct battle for survival against an enemy that might not be able to see them, but that makes up for it with an incredibly acute sense of hearing. As for the outcome of this battle on both our heroes to say nothing of the cat that is something I will leave for you to discover for yourself….

Now right off, it should be said that the work done by the various departments behind the camera on this cinematic outing does hit a few bumps here and there, but is still quite solid overall. This starts with the work done in the director/writer’s chair by relative newcomer Michael Sarnoski and he takes over for Krasinski fairly well here. Indeed perhaps the key thing that Sarnoski brings to the table here is that he is blessed with a gift for being able to find emotion and gravitas where others might not. A gift that not only was brilliantly applied to 2021’s Pig, but very much so to this film as well. I say this because while yes Sarnoski does a great job at giving audiences what they want from a film like this (aliens attacking people, suspense at the possibility of them finding our characters, repeat), he also brings a bit of substance to the film in the form of both rediscovering the will to live even as the world you know is crumbling all around you to say nothing of how when disaster strikes people will often reach out to one another more than choose to stay divided along lines that in those moments no longer have any meaning. As a result, yes this slice of cinema does prove to be fairly thrilling, but don’t be surprised if you also find yourself a bit emotional as well by the time it’s over.  Along with the skilled work on display by Sarnoski, this slice of cinema also manages to feature a truly memorable and taut musical accompaniment from Alexis Grapsas. Indeed here is a score that manages to do a magnificent job of not only enhancing the larger than life moments where chaos has hit the fan and the alien creatures are running amok on the terrified out of their mind denizens of the Big Apple, but also at not having as much in the way of prevalence during the more low-key and human-rooted moments in the film. Suffice it to say that this is one score that is aware of when it needs to sell us on what’s going on in the narrative and when to take a step back and wisely put that task in the hands of both the talented cast of performers as well as some of the other departments behind the camera and as a result of that awareness, I can say that it works beautifully as a result. Alongside those elements, this slice of cinema is blessed with skillfully executed work from Pat Scola and the cinematography department. Indeed not only does Scola brilliantly ensure that his team’s work is able to keep you fairly consistently on the edge of your seat, but also that the more low-key human moments are filmed in such a way that it feels less like we are merely viewing these circumstances as events in a fictional story and more like we are right there with the characters going through this nightmare with them.  Suffice it to say that when you also throw into this mix well-done work from the production design team at fairly effectively turning a studio backlot in England into 4 blocks of apocalypse-stricken NYC, solid work from the visual effects team especially with the design for the creatures which still remains highly effective, and riveting work done by the editing department as headed by both Gregory Plotkin and Andrew Mondshein among others respectively it’s clear that this slice of cinema might have its issues, but even so the work done behind the camera on this particular cinematic outing still does a remarkable job at really permitting the film to be a wonderful balancing act between chilling creature moments and moments of soul-stirring humanity in equal measure.

Alongside the high caliber work done by the immensely skilled group operating behind the camera, this slice of cinema also finds itself benefiting from the equally as top-tier efforts provided by the small yet extremely well-chosen cast of performers assembled in front of the camera as well. Without a doubt in my mind, this starts with the phenomenal Lupita Nyong’o in the lead role of Sam and she is amazing here. Yes Nyong’o might seem like a rather unusual choice for this role (and yes I do recall that she was in 2019’s Us), but here we see that she does terrific at bringing to life for audiences a world-weary and resigned heroine that, without going into spoilers, is motivated here less to try and save the world and more to just have a hint of normalcy in her life one more time even as everything falls apart around her. Suffice it to say it’s a fantastic turn from an actress who always bring her best no matter if the film is this or 2014’s Non-Stop. Alongside the absolutely impeccable work done by Nyong’o, this slice of cinema also gifts audiences with an equally as wonderful turn here from Joseph “Eddie Munson” Quinn in the role of a British law student that our heroine crosses paths with by the name of Eric. Indeed Quinn does a terrific job here of providing us with a character that is able to showcase just how vulnerable and likable he is as a person more through what he does rather than what he says whilst also forming a genuine bond with Sam that definitely is sure to tug at the heartstrings a bit. Lastly, I think this section would most assuredly be lacking if I didn’t take some time to praise the work done here by Nico and Schnitzel. Now, in case you were wondering, these aren’t a pair of one-name only actors nor did I just goof and credit a performance in this movie to an actor by the name of Nico Schnitzel who is nowhere to be found in the film itself. Rather, these are the names of the twins who are responsible for bringing to life for us this slice of cinema’s delightful feline hero Frodo and they do a wonderful job here. To be sure, the fact that this cat actually manages to not meow or cause any kind of a ruckus whatsoever during this film’s runtime might be a touch more on the otherworldly side than even the monsters themselves, but even so the movie does a wonderful job of making this cat and his admirable level of indifference in the face of an alien invasion into a character that is worthy of following and rooting for in his own right.  Suffice it to say that when you also incorporate performances from such talents as Alex Wolff whose solid work here as a positive and good of heart care worker by the name of Reuben continues to provide proof that he is very much one of the finest talents of his generation, the long underrated Djimon Hounsou doing an effectively heartbreaking job of reprising his role from A Quiet Place Part II, and Eliane Umuhire it’s clear that the cast of talent in this slice of cinema might be small in size, but the work done by each and every one of them makes them a huge reason for why the film manages to succeed on the level that it is ultimately able to reach by the time the screen cuts to black and the end credits begin to roll.

All in all and at the end of the day I must admit that, much like the very first installment all the way back in 2018, A Quiet Place: Day One managed to actually surprise me dear reader albeit not for the same reasons. This is because whereas with the first one I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it right down to the choice of none other than Jim Halpert directing (in all fairness though a much better choice than Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, or Roy Anderson….though now that I say that I really would be curious to see how Dwight would’ve fared in the world of this film) this one I wasn’t entirely sure would work nearly as well as the two cinematic home runs that John Krasinski (Jim’s alter-ego) managed to give us. Imagine my surprise then to tell you that my fear and worry were, by and large, very much for naught. To be sure, it might not be a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but even so there is no denying that I absolutely dig the heck out of this slice of cinema dear reader. Indeed the work done behind the camera is fairly solid at permitting this film to feel like both its own thing as well as a seemingly organic extension of this distinct cinematic world whilst the performances by the small yet immensely talented cast in front of the camera (with particular regard to the ones given by Nyong’o and Quinn) all manage to deliver top-flight work in their own right no matter how much or little screentime they are given. Suffice it to say then that A Quiet Place: Day One manages to do a terrific job at not only being another winning installment in this already noteworthy horror franchise, but also at being a film that is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat whilst also actually give you something genuinely contemplative to ponder upon on the nature of both living life and being there for your fellow human beings respectively long after the credits have begun to roll. Now if you’ll excuse me: I’m going to try and sneak out of here as quietly as I can so the aliens that may or may not be on my roof at the moment don’t hear me and try to make me their Grub Hub order to go if you get my meaning….On a scale of 1-5 I give A Quiet Place: Day One a solid 4 out of 5.

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