Review: ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’

Lupita Nyong'o And A Superstar Feline Shine In Michael Sarnoski's Somber, Slightly Noisier Prequel

John Krasinski established a less-is-more approach to A Quiet Place right from the beginning. Free from the cacophony of other noisy blockbusters, audiences were chilled to the bone by the near-silent world overrun by aliens that can track by the slightest sound. It was genuinely cool to be in a dead-quiet theater with an audience too afraid to utter a peep, for fear of attracting the creatures themselves. The spinoff A Quiet Place: Day One is a different beast. Originally to be directed by Jeff Nichols, it was ultimately Michael Sarnsoski, director of the acclaimed indie drama Pig, who took the reigns. Perhaps it should’ve been obvious, but the result is like an arthouse horror with a focus on a singular dramatic turn by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o…and one amazingly helpful feline.

The third film in the franchise takes us back literally to day one of the aliens’ arrival, and humanity learning rather quickly that it’s a good idea to shut the eff up from now on. That’s not such an easy ask when you’re talking about New York City, the loudest city in the world. Nyong’o plays Sam, a terminal cancer patient in hospice and she’s angry at the world. We’re introduced to her thorny personality as she’s sharing in group therapy a poem that craps on everybody, including nurse Reuben (Alex Wolff), the one guy trying hard to be her friend. To that end, Reuben invites her along on a field trip into the city to see a show, a marionette show, as it turns out, with the promise of real New York pizza at the end. Even Sam can’t refuse, and boy, does she cling to that desire for a slice of ‘za for the entirety of the movie.

The pizza is going to have to wait, though, because the world is coming to an end. Arriving like meteors falling down to Earth, the chaos caused by the predators’ arrival evokes imagery similar to 9/11. Buildings topple, smoke and fire set the city ablaze, and ash covers thousands of people like fallen snow. At first, it takes some getting used to this many explosions, an A Quiet Place movie isn’t supposed to be this loud. But it is, and frequently so. Humanity hasn’t figured out quite what to do do survive, and even when they do, aren’t well-practiced at keeping silent the way folks are in the two prior movies.  Day One takes on the shape of a big studio movie in that respect. We see a lot more of the creatures than we ever have before, and they are constantly in chase mode. They aren’t as scary as a result, which will be disappointing to those hoping to get at least a jump scare or two.

Instead, A Quiet Place: Day One is, in a way, a character study about Sam coming to terms with her death. The alien attack throws a monkey wrench into things, in that it might hasten the end. But Sam is remarkably resolute throughout; terrified, sure, but definitely in better shape than Eric, the British law student played by Stranger Things breakout Joseph Quinn. He’s an absolute mess, relying on Sam to get through this apocalypse without becoming E.T. food.

Nyong’o is fantastic, naturally, revealing an edginess and justifiable anger, but also a vulnerable side. She makes sense out of Sam’s rather flimsy, ridiculous motivation, adding weight to an ultimately slight story. But the real star of the show is Frodo, Sam’s loyal service cat who goes along with her everywhere. And we do mean everywhere. As a longtime cat owner myself, I’ve never known a cat to be this quiet, resourceful, and helpful. He slides in and out of trouble, guides his human companions to safety, and is just a highlight of every scene without a single meow. There are teases of things to come, including the presence of Djimon Hounsou, the only actor to reprise his role.

A Quiet Place: Day One is a somber entry to the series, ending on a bittersweet note that is sure to be divisive. It’s also the most powerful moment of the movie, and one that only someone with the talent of Nyong’o could believably pull off. A Quiet Place has always delivered moments of shocking emotional impact, and while we had to wait a while for it here, Day One finally delivers.

Paramount releases A Quiet Place: Day One in theaters on June 28th.

A Quiet Place: Day One
Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
quiet-place-54160John Krasinski established a less-is-more approach to A Quiet Place right from the beginning. Free from the cacophony of other noisy blockbusters, audiences were chilled to the bone by the near-silent world overrun by aliens that can track by the slightest sound. It was...