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Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Culture Pick: ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ has glitz of its predecessors but lacks staying power

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
“A Quiet Place: Day One,” released on June 27, is the prequel to 2018’s “A Quiet Place.”

“A Quiet Place: Day One” has the foundation of a rock-solid and even great prequel.

It isn’t just that it brings the concept of sound-seeking monsters to a fresh and exciting urban setting. The movie offers a profound thematic premise, making its main character a terminally-ill hospice patient fighting the daily battle of finding purpose while painful mortality lingers on the horizon. It is an inevitability that in theory maps seamlessly onto the concept of a prequel where audiences know there can be no true happy ending.

Unfortunately, such an enticing story frame winds up feeling unceremonious and almost empty. There’s a disconnect between the emotional substance — which is centered around Sam,  Lupita N’Yongo’s ailing lead — and the glitzy monster content that gets viewers in seats.

An effort is made early on to keep the emotion at the forefront. The first ten minutes portray Sam grappling with the lingering possibility of an abrupt end. She and a group of fellow patients make a trip to New York City to see a puppet show; the excitement and allure of the city carry an underlying sadness, with that lingering possibility stealing every potentially happy moment.

The sound-sensitive aliens — eyeless creatures who make a rapid, four-legged dash toward even the slightest noise — arrive shortly into the trip. From there, the chaotic day one of the apocalypse begins.

This chaos, while it might feel empty, fortunately doesn’t lack high-octane intensity. The film capitalizes on its setting, taking a type of horror that already worked in dystopian forest environments and placing it on the labyrinthian streets of a city. Like the previous two series entries, the phenomenon of silence is thrilling both for the movie itself and for moviegoers just as adamant as the characters upon not making a sound.

On a purely technical level, “Day One” soars at more or less the same heights as its predecessors. The cinematography strikes an even balance between tantalizing non-reveals and monster-heavy closeups. The concept-specific horror moments, which are centered around silence and the lack thereof, largely achieve their desired effect. A silenced and in-flames New York City is eerie, whether seen in a midday overcast or the smoky blackness of night.

To be clear, “Day One” doesn’t suffer from insufficient action. Its principle struggle is an awkwardness within its sense of inevitability.

Though no one comes in expecting a climactic battle in which the monsters can be wiped out before they ever appear in “A Quiet Place” or “A Quiet Place Part II,” there’s nonetheless a feeling of inconsequentiality in the character’s journey and motivations. 

Sam and immigrant law student Eric, played by Joseph Quinn, engage in a relationship with unusual interpersonal dynamics; though well-performed, it is oddly composed. Their emotional connections begin a little too early, and their shared quest that follows is a little too contrived.

They spend the bulk of the story pursuing a goal of Sam’s that sounds silly and is only made legitimate by her inevitable mortality. When things don’t go their way, they have a somewhat strange “eye of the storm” moment that seems to reconcile their failure and accept the chaos of their world.  After a fast-paced but emotionally so-so climax, viewers are brought to a final few moments that feel more funky than fulfilling.

These are vague words to describe a film with elusive and nearly intangible problems. The third act hits all the right notes on paper, but between the lines, it feels peaky and inessential.

The first two “A Quiet Place” movies thrived upon stories that found vitality in strong family bonds and stories with necessary actions and consequences, and “Day One” is lacking on both counts. It moves with the technical and external prowess of the other films, but the spirit that made them resonate is for the most part missing.

It winds up like a fast food item sat alongside its gourmet restaurant counterpart. Their momentary tastes might be comparable, but their staying power isn’t a competition. While it’s a brisk and enjoyable ride, “Day One” falls short of true memorability.

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