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'A Quiet Place: Day One' Is One of the Year's Biggest Surprises

By Sara Clements | Film | July 2, 2024 |

By Sara Clements | Film | July 2, 2024 |


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When we first entered the world of A Quiet Place, an alien species had already killed most of the human population. Hundreds of days into the apocalyptic invasion, we meet a couple trying to survive and raise their children in isolation. As the title suggests, the first film and the second that follows are set in very quiet environments. They’re one-of-a-kind cinematic experiences where the audience tries to remain as quiet as the characters on screen. Every sound, no matter how small, can mean death at the claws of the sightless, sharp-hearing aliens. We all remember the panic at the sound of the toy spaceship that set the tone for the John Krasinski-helmed films. The sound, overcoming the deafening silence, felt to match the decibel strength of once-crowded cities. This raises the question: How could people in places like New York City survive this invasion? A Quiet Place: Day One imagines exactly this.

If you’ve ever been to New York City, the noise undoubtedly sticks with you. “The City That Never Sleeps” always feels so alive. You could never describe it as “a quiet place,” which makes it a challenge to take on that moniker. Written and directed by Michael Sarnoski, A Quiet Place: Day One could have been a tired retread into this franchise, but it’s a prequel that takes it to new heights. Much larger in scale thanks to its setting, the film is a roller coaster ride of tension, with an immersive soundscape and engrossing apocalyptic imagery. What’s most surprising, however, is its emotional core as it becomes a personal drama that mediates on life and death.

The film opens with Sam (Lupita Nyong’o), as she recovers in hospice amid cancer treatment. Her cat Frodo keeps her company, along with nurse, Reuben (Alex Wolff). She wasn’t supposed to survive her cancer, but despite it feeling like the clock is ticking, she’s hanging on. When the hospice takes a field trip to the big city, she finds herself longing for one thing: Pizza. That craving is soon interrupted by the crash landing of aliens. Blanked by smoke and deafened by the explosion, Sam is thrown into chaos and confusion. Screams slowly emerge through silence but are quickly stifled by the alien invaders. It’s a fantastic opener, sucking you right in as it establishes the heightened tension that will remain, as well as the fear.

New York City’s cacophony of sounds easily turned it into an all-you-can-eat buffet, and the city’s inhabitants quickly learn that silence is key to survival — but this won’t be easy. In one scene, a large group of New Yorkers walks toward the safety of the river looking like shell-shocked zombies. As Sam comes across them, every movement they make is heightened, and you see anxiety cross her face in anticipation of the inevitable swarm. This anticipation is constant, resulting in many moments of action throughout.

After one of many near escapes, Sam meets Eric (Joseph Quinn) who, like many, is terrified. He’s afraid of dying, especially dying alone. We learn that Sam is the opposite. She has been close to death for a long time and her fortitude helps provide Eric with a sense of calm. They decide to stick together as Sam, still longing for a good slice of pizza, decides to travel across the city to Harlem to her favorite pizza place. On the surface, that trek may seem ridiculous, but it proves to be a very personal and emotional journey for her. If she has to die, it will be somewhere of her choosing; a place that brings back happy memories. This journey, no matter how terrifying, turns out to be quite beautiful, especially as Sam and Eric share some touching moments that provide levity in the darkness.

A Quiet Place: Day One feels both familiar and different at the same time. For two films, we watched one family try to survive. It’s more interesting to follow two strangers learning to trust and work together to make it out alive. It’s anchored by two fantastic performances (three if you count the cat) that emphasize both the film’s solemn tone but also its hopefulness. The risks feel much higher this time around as every corner of the city is overrun. You see the consequences of every shaky breath, and the importance of a hand over the mouth to silence a scream. It’s a concept that remains enticing thanks to its transfer into the hands of Pig’s Michael Sarnoski. A Quiet Place: Day One delivers so much more than one could have anticipated and turns out to be one of the year’s biggest surprises.