A Quiet Place: Day One
Photograph: Gareth Gatrell/Paramount PicturesLupita Nyong’o and Joseph Quinn in ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’
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A Quiet Place: Day One

3 out of 5 stars

Whisper it. Third time around, strong performances can’t overcome a deafening sense of déjà vu

Ian Freer

Time Out says

There is something inherently cinematic about the Quiet Place films. They’re set in a world built around aliens with ultrasonic hearing who stalk by noise, meaning the movies often take on the qualities of silent cinema, built on imagery, sound effects and music rather than dialogue. They’re built for the big screen. 

With the first film starting on Day 89 of the alien invasion and Part II picking up on Day 474, the third instalment rolls all the way back to the beginning, swapping pastoral paranoia for that favourite extraterrestrial infiltration stand by, New York (a mouth-watering call as a subtitle tells us the Big Apple has the same decibel level as a constant scream). Series leader John Krasinski has passed the baton on to writer-director Michael Sarnoski, the filmmaker behind acclaimed Nicolas Cage porcine kidnap caper Pig, who delivers a well-played, kinda enjoyable but overly familiar entry in the entertaining series.

Eschewing the Abbott family, the protagonist this time is Samira (Lupita Nyong’o), a terminally ill cancer patient who visits the city with her hospice to see a (charming) marionette show. As the aliens attack, the first act is suitably intense, Sarnoski mounting impressive, 9/11-flecked carnage, Nyong’o hiding under cars, her wide-eyed panic shining out of a face caked in dust, as asteroids land and the aliens with the 20/20 hearing maraud around her.

In the subsequent melee, Samira is left stranded with just her poetry book, an ‘I heart NY’ tote bag and her cat Frodo (played with stoic indifference by Nico and Schnitzel) for company. Eventually she is followed by Brit law student Eric (Stranger Things’ Joseph Quinn) – his parents are going through their own hell: they live in Kent – and the pair pick up together as Sam heads for Harlem for one last slice of pizza for her own personal reasons. 

Lupita Nyong’o is a saving grace in the eye of the storm

The relationship between Sam and Eric is the most successful element of Day One. Be it doing primal screams during thundercracks to mask the sound or performing a winning card trick, their low-key platonic bond is affecting, Quinn effectively playing a gentle soft-boy who finds inner reserves. There’s an attention to detail and feel for people here that goes a long way to keeping you involved.

But the problem with Sarnoski’s screenplay is the search-for-a slice plotline lacks propulsion, giving the story a meandering, insubstantial quality. Sarnoski delivers an impressive sense of scale but the creature sequences – aliens crashing through the glass of a skyscraper or chasing down a flooded subway tunnel – lack novelty and invention, the sense of dread diminishing as the film goes on. Nothing here comes close to that rusty nail or Emily Blunt giving birth in a bathtub in the first film. 

Still, it’s a bold choice to lead A Quiet Place flick with a character who has more going on in their life than the potential destruction of civilisation and just marches to the beat of her own drum. Super skilled and eminently likeable, Nyong’o is a saving grace in the eye of the storm.

Out worldwide Fri Jun 28.

Cast and crew

  • Director:Michael Sarnoski
  • Screenwriter:Michael Sarnoski, Bryan Woods, John Krasinski
  • Cast:
    • Djimon Hounsou
    • Lupita Nyong'o
    • Joseph Quinn
    • Alex Wolff
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