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‘A Quiet Place’ delievers

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"The Quiet Place" is John Krasinski's directorial debut.

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"The Quiet Place" is John Krasinski's directorial debut.

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Alfred Hitchcock had a story he’d like to tell about the difference between surprise and suspense. Imagine two people are having a conversation and a bomb goes off from underneath the table they’re sitting at. This, he’d say, is surprise. Now, imagine the same scenario but the audience knows there’s a bomb under the table that will detonate in five minutes. This is suspense. The difference is in the parsing out of information. “A Quiet Place,” the latest movie from “The Office” alum John Krasinski, dabbles in both of these elements, but its adherence to this classical definition of suspense is what makes its terror so effective.

“A Quiet Place” occurs in a world where humanity is hunted by monsters who track by sound. It’s in this premise where the initial tension is first generated: how does one live without making a sound? It’s impossible. This is the film’s equivalent to the bomb under the table. The audience inherently knows that sound will eventually be made — it’s an element of existence.

The question then arises what will happen when that rule of silence is eventually broken. To Krasinski’s credit, he wrings all that he can out of this idea. Full scenes are played without sound, either to accentuate the eventual noise that will occur or to let the audience’s own heartbeat become a fatal soundtrack. The rest of the film is wrapped around this harrowing core.

John Krasinski and Emily Blunt play husband and wife, trying to protect their children in this apocalyptic nightmare. The film quickly reveals itself as a parable for parenting, and while the themes it develops aren’t particularly complex, there’s a thematic innocence to them that’s admirable. However, the quieter (no pun intended) scenes in this movie feel like a drag, weighing down the momentum the film has so craftily cultivated up until this point. Exposition is a necessary evil, a pill that must be sugar-coated, but Krasinski’s talents don’t reside in these elements of filmmaking.

The film’s magic lies in its brevity: there’s no backstory for this family and no explicit explanation for these monsters. Instead, the picture is only focused on this small sliver of days the family is trying to get through. This is a sprint of a film and you can almost feel the wind on your face as it flies right by you. “A Quiet Place” is lean and focused and while it falters in the slower moments, the times where the film isn’t actively trying to terrify you, its admiration and adherence for the classical techniques of suspense and tension set it a notch above recent entries to the genre.

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