A Quiet Place does something pretty incredible. It takes what could be an arty, lofty uber-indie premise and somehow retains the freshness of those kinds of movies but does it in a wholly commercial way.
I've seen dozens of these kinds of movies at film festivals. It Comes At Night jumps to mind. They're usually focused on a dysfunctional family isolated in the country after a plague/invasion/zombie apocalypse/whatever. It's a typical indie premise because it's cheap. You just need a handful of actors, go rent out a farm somewhere for a couple weeks and then depend on atmosphere and mystery instead of showing the very expensive threat. These movies usually bring the mood, but not the payoff. A Quiet Place brings both.
The movie takes place in the near future (I believe it's 2020) and we begin with a family very quietly looking for medicine for their sick son in an abandoned drug store. They sign to each other, tiptoe around in bare feet and act like anything that could possibly make a sound is a live bomb.
We come to discover that there are deadly creatures that are fast, heavily armored, blind and very, very hungry. Within a matter of months these creatures have reduced humanity's population to almost nothing. Although it's not explicitly stated I assume the family at the center of this story survived the initial onslaught because they've all learned sign language to communicate with their deaf daughter and just happened to be quieter at the right moment.
Also left mysterious is where these things came from. Are they aliens? Mutations? Science experiments gone wrong? It doesn't matter. They just are. The fact that the movie doesn't try to over-explain the threat is one of the reasons it works so well.
In fact the only time the film falters at all is when it yells to the cheap seats really early on by throwing a ton of exposition on a white board surrounded by dozens of newspaper headlines with headlines like “IT'S SOUND!!!” It's the only time I was taken out of the movie, where I felt the filmmakers telling me something instead of showing it to me.
But for the most part the movie establishes its rules through action and doesn't break them. I'd wager a good 80% or more of the movie is without dialogue, characters either communicating with looks or subtitled sign language. That's the little bit of the indie spirit I mentioned. How many wide-release studio movies do you know that have so little characters speaking? The story is practically designed to show and not tell.
It being a thriller also means they can weaponize their sound. Yes, there's tons of jump scares, but they don't feel cheap. In a film where any sound could mean death any sudden sound is going to be a stinger by sheer fact that the movie hangs on the premise that everybody has to be as quiet as possible.
In fact I found while watching it that I was clocking my own noises. I was conscious of any noise I was making... from a sniffle to a laugh to small throat clearing. I was so into the story that I was worried I myself was going to make a noise loud enough to bring hell down on this family, who I genuinely cared about.
That's the film's other great strength: you do care about these people and the fact that they're all so clearly established without multiple conversation scenes is a testament to how disciplined the writing and directing is. The characters make intelligent decisions, but are still human, fearful, in pain, emotional. Cinematically the film is a knockout, with gorgeous photography, great production design (minus that exposition white board I hate so much, of course), and incredible effects from ILM. Emotionally the actors all sell their characters so you actually care when they're in danger.
Perhaps the very real love and history of caring for each other helps us buy John Krasinski and Emily Blunt's relationship. That wouldn't surprise me, but I wouldn't take away from what they pull off here by attributing it solely to a comfortability between the two. The kids, Millicent Simmonds (from Wonderstruck) and Noah Jupe (Wonder, Suburbicon) are equally fantastic. Simmonds wrestles with anger and a guilt while Jupe is trying to keep his terror under control. She's the stronger one, but he's the one that can see their troubled family for what it is. Maybe that's why he's so scared because he knows the love that is there and he doesn't want to lose it.
In short, the movie is smart without being up its own ass, scary without betraying its emotional core, and it pulls you into the world, which is kind of why movies exist in the first place. Fresh, fun, scary. This is a big, big recommend for me. Thankfully you don't have to wait to long to see it since it hits theaters April 6th.