My last review was for a film may have been burdened with the expectations of its acclaimed director but it did have an easy in for discussing their prior work since Isle of Dogs is very recognizably a Wes Anderson joint. John Krasinski however has no such defining touches as his two-prior works were the almost instantly forgotten Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and the generic and mediocre The Hollars although they are both comedy-dramas with tepid receptions. Instead, he is and will probably always be to most people the guy who smirked to the camera on The Office (though I associate him with Away We Go because I am quite fond of it). But let’s make no mistake, he is not this year’s Jordan Peele, comedy actor who breaks out into acclaimed horror director with big early year film even though that describes them both because A Quiet Place is not Get Out. It’s not trying to be, and any comparison is unfair to both films.
With it established what A Quiet Place is not, let’s establish another thing it is not, a 2000s Platinum Dunes film. I’ve talked enough about why their films were terrible, but for many horror fans, they will never escape their reputation as “crappy remake factory” when lately they have actually been trying with The Purge films crawling up to mediocrity and Ouija: Origin of Evil being actually good. That’s not to say it escapes the scourges of modernity however though. The story is a simple one, monsters hunt by sound, so Krasinki, Emily Blunt, and family must be silent to avoid detection. Thankfully for Krasinski the director, the easiest way to make a jump scare is to make everything go quiet and they make a loud noise happen so his job is easy and too often the film falls back on this easy trope. Curiously, he also decides to show these monsters early and often under the mistaken belief that their boring design (I do admit to liking the effect when they go into Super Listen Mode however) makes them scary. It does not.
That simple story though is an effective hook though. It allows for a very interesting world to be set up, even if it is predicated on Krasinski being awesome at electronics, farming, fishing, basically everything as well as effective tension. It also forces the movie to be more creative with the way characters communicate. Sorry, that should read the premise does, but the movie seems to be really arbitrary on the level of sound that sets off the detection and at one point two characters have a conversation at fairly normal volume quite a distance away from a waterfall when it has stopped being much of a distraction. In fact, by the end, it seemed to be contriving more and more ways for characters to talk in dumber and dumber ways. They committed to a premise like Isle of Dogs to convey a tone, but they apparently didn’t have confidence in stupid American audiences to be able to handle it. There’s one extended sequence late which really capitalizes though on the whole premise, works off suspense instead of jump scares, and climaxes the film perfectly. It’s just a shame the movie continues from there becoming dumber and dumber and losing more and more of my good will with maybe one good moment after.
The cast is all over the place in quality. Blunt largely carries the film when she shows up while Krasinski is a nice solid presence the way they always are. It’s hard to tell whether he started growing the beard, taking up survivalism, and storing everything in mason jars when the world ended (which really, how were all those newspapers printed in silence?), because I completely believe that he was into this shit well beforehand. His deaf daughter, well she starts off so well, but I don’t know if the writing is to blame or she is as the film moves from curious ambivalence to spelling everything out explicitly. The sons are just terrible.
As much as I’ve harped on the film’s flaws, I did like the movie mostly. There’s an awful lot of what could have been. The visuals are good, even rising to great during that one sequence that feels like someone more talented briefly took over directing, and I wish Krasinski felt confident in them instead of relying on dialogue. What is it with films this week? Isle of Dogs didn’t spend enough time on the Isle of Dogs and A Quiet Place was too loud, suffering in the moments when it got away from what it did best and not just from the stupidity of all the unnecessary noise characters would make.