Features Live Action Movies

A Quiet Place
Day One

Director – Michael Sarnoski – 2024 – US – Cert. 15 – 100m


A terminally ill woman returns to the New York of her childhood as hostile aliens land and start wreaking havoc – franchise prequel is out in UK and Ireland cinemas on Friday, June 28th

Another attempt to duplicate the success of A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018), this time by showing us the first day of the alien invasion in New York City, the sort of thing that couldn’t be done on the small budget of the original. Which sounds like more of the same – and on one level, that’s exactly what this is (so admirers of the original – among whom I number myself – wanting more aliens who hunt by sound, and more terrifying games of hide and seek with them, should find themselves more than satisfied).

There’s a curious attempt by the Studio’s marketing department to offer the chance to find out “why the world went quiet”, which is a great idea but bears no relation whatsoever to this film. Once you know that the aliens hunt by sound, so you must keep quiet to survive – revealed in the original film – this new film offers no further explanation as to why the world went quiet. (That original, simple explanation still works for me – why offer to add to it? Stranger still, why make the offer, then fail to deliver on it?)

Leaving that aside, however, the film makes one incredibly smart move.

While remaining consistent in terms of the alien invasion, and having a bit-part appearance on one of the boats tasked with evacuating people from the city by Henri (Djimon Hounsou), a character who first appeared in A Quiet Place Part II (John Krasinski, 2018), A Quiet Place Day One is based round two new characters who bear no relation to anyone in the previous two films. One is Samira (Lupita Nyong’o from Black Panther, Ryan Coogler, 2018; Little Monsters, Abe Forsythe, 2019; Star Wars Episode VII: the Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams, 2015; 12 Years A Slave, Steve McQueen, 2013), a woman holed up in a care home slowly dying of cancer. The other is Eric (Joseph Quinn from Hoard, Luna Carmoon, 2023; Make Up, Claire Oakley, 2019; Small Axe, Steve McQueen, 2020; and Stranger Things, TV series, 2022), a Brit from Kent who is studying at a New York law school and has his whole life ahead of him.

Sam has been talked by her care supervisor at the home Reuben (Alex Wolff from Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan, 2023; Old, M. Night Shyamalan, 2021; Pig, Michael Sarnoski, 2021; Hereditary, Ari Aster, 2018) onto a group trip into New York to see a show; what she really wants to do in New York, though, is eat pizza. Not the ones they usually buy near the care home itself, but the ones like her late dad used to get her in Harlem when she was little. He is unaware she is planning a reminiscence trip.

She is unhappy when the booked theatre show turns out to be a one-man puppet show (performed by puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew, best known as the voice of Zippy on UK children’s television). She sneaks out to buy a snack and has a minor run-in with a man who tells her she shouldn’t bring her cat, whose name is Frodo, into the store. (Sam and Frodo – get it?) It gets worse; after the show when they would have been preparing to get pizza, there’s a citywide emergency, the nature of which is (to the characters) as yet unknown, so Reuben begins to drive the hired bus back to the hospice. Objects fall from the sky and terror ensues on the streets as the rapidly moving creatures begin carrying people off.

Reuben fails to survive beyond the first reel, leaving Sam, carrying Frodo, to hide in a series of interiors or go walkabout in the city when things go quiet. She runs across Eric, and after initially trying to get rid of him, the two of them join forces as he is able to help her by finding more supplies of her meds when they run out.

The film delivers plenty of alien action as the pair attempt to not become their prey, including the creatures following helicopters announcing to the populace at large what to do, and a tense episode in underground sewer tunnels, some of them underwater. And that may well be what they audience come to see. Surprisingly, it also turns into a cat movie, with the relationship with the cat very much to the fore. More surprisingly still, the cat seems to mostly do everything Sam wants it to do, making it more compliant than most cats I’ve known.

By accident or design, however, as the film explores Sam’s coming to terms with her impending death (by cancer) and Eric’s feeling of loss for the vibrant New York he has been recently getting to know, it conjures two things. One is the numerous scenes where visibility is severely reduced by ground level dust cloud in the streets, evoking the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack. Some of these involve the creatures attacking and picking people off, while others just seem to convey that atmosphere. (I was glued to the TV when 9/11 was happening, and remember dust-cloud footage like this.) More pertinently, perhaps, the scenes of people alone, wandering through the deserted city, recall what it was like to be in a big city (I was in London) during the global pandemic, when everything was shut down, quiet and still.

Now, the film is not about the pandemic in terms of its plot, but the first two films were made before that historic event while this third one was made after it. The films are all about a sense of loss, and the first two now carry a certain unintended resonance with that event. That’s even more pertinent in this new film, made post-pandemic, and it’s hard to believe its significance on that level escaped the filmmakers. As a picture of a city that has been shut down by unforeseen events, it becomes an extraordinary viewing experience.

A Quiet Place: Day One is out in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on Friday, June 28th.


Trailer Two:

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