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Movie Review: “A Quiet Place: Day One” Now Playing at Boone Regal

By Bob Garver

“A Quiet Place: Day One” made a grave miscalculation with its advertising. Scenes were filmed with the intention of putting them in the trailers, but not the movie. This way, when people saw the movie, they wouldn’t be able to properly anticipate the surprises and story progression. To that end, the advertising succeeded, I was indeed thrown off while watching the movie. But here’s where they didn’t succeed: the scenes shot just for the trailers were terrible, with clumsy dialogue and careless pacing. I was so mad at Hollywood for continuing this series without the creative vision of director John Krasinski, especially when the movie looked like garbage without his input. I only saw this movie out of obligation for the column, and I wouldn’t be surprised if fans of the series stayed away entirely because of those awful trailers. But it turns out that not only is this movie better than the trailers, it’s better than the two installments that Krasinski directed. 

“Day One” casts aside the familiar Abbott family in favor of new protagonist Sam (Lupita Nyong’o). Sam is a cancer patient taking a trip from her hospice to Manhattan along with her nurse Reuben (Alex Wolff) and service cat Frodo. Sam only agrees to the trip on the condition that the group stop for pizza at her favorite place in Harlem. The sudden invasion of echolocating aliens means a delay in pizza. Honestly, Sam is only interested in self-preservation to the end that it means eventual pizza. 

Sam shelters in place for a bit with Reuben, who has a great scene where he stares down an alien like he’s staring down death itself. Also in the shelter is familiar character Henri (Djimon Hounsou) from “Part II” of the series, here forced to make an unthinkable decision. She moves on to helping some children in Central Park before finding a companion in anxious wreck Eric (Joseph Quinn). Can the two survive in alien-infested New York long enough to get a slice of pizza? If so, what happens after that? 

“Day One” has the most suspense yet for a “Quiet Place” movie. It was scary enough that characters had to keep quiet to save their lives on a family farm or in small town. But in New York, the noises are as big as the pizzas. Speaking of food, I wonder if the characters’ best bet for survival would be to let the aliens fill up on noisy people and then hope they’re too stuffed to give chase. Maybe that’s why the film’s biggest flaw is that the main characters get away with making as much noise as they do. 

The film does an excellent job of wringing scares out of not only the slightest sounds, but loud-looking images. Even with everybody promising to be quiet, a crowd of people is going to make noise eventually, that’s just how crowds are. So if the characters find themselves as part of a crowd, the clock is already ticking. And that’s with a reasonable amount of effort being made. Some people just aren’t cut out for quiet, and associating with those people in this environment could prove fatal. 

“A Quiet Place: Day One” had me afraid to breathe loudly in the theater, a testament to the film’s immersiveness. And yet, the suspenseful atmosphere is only the second-best thing about the movie. The real star here is, well, the star: Lupita Nyong’o. This movie doesn’t have returning players John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, or even recent Oscar-winner Cillian Murphy, and Nyong’o makes up for all of them. One way or another, Sam doesn’t have much time left on this Earth, but you’ll want to be there for every moment. It took until nearly the exact halfway point of the year, but I think we have our first serious contender for an acting Oscar. Not bad for a movie whose advertising had me thinking it would be one of the worst films of the year. 

Grade: B

“A Quiet Place: Day One” is rated PG-13 for terror and violent content/bloody images. Its running time is 100 minutes.