There’s a scene in either A Quiet Place or A Quiet Place: Part II – possibly both, doesn’t matter – where Emily Blunt’s character drives furiously in reverse to avoid colliding with the driverless bus bearing down on her. See the bus was just bombarded by aliens with acute hearing but no vision, and this was the first day they made their presence known on Earth. It’s a harrowing moment that serves only as flashback within the context of the first two films in the series, which were launched by Blunt’s husband, John Krasinski.


The notion to explore that day more fully, in the present tense, was a logical prequel idea for a studio eager for another influx of the cash that came with those first two movies. It’s less like a prequel, and more of a sidestep in the Quiet Place universe, what the TV program Fear the Walking Dead was to the show off which it spun. This is to the benefit of A Quiet Place: Day One, directed by Pig director Michael Sarnoski, taking the reins from Krasinski for the first time in this series. (Krasinski remains on as producer and has a story credit.) We get to see how others made sense of the sudden change in their circumstances and learned that the creatures were drawn by sounds, no matter how minuscule. There’s no debt to Blunt’s character and her family (who don’t appear) and only a bare minimum of Easter eggs for the other movies.

Instead, our main character is Samira (Lupita Nyong’o), a cancer patient living in hospice just outside New York City. She used to be a poet, but the only verse she writes now is to sling shit, almost literally, on the hospice she calls home for however many remaining days she has. She agrees to an excursion into the city to see a show as long as the nurse who will be supervising their group, Reuben (Alex Wolff), promises to let them stop for pizza on the way home. Not Domino’s, but real New York City pizza with slices the side of your head.

They won’t be going home. As a soundtrack of sirens steadily suffuses the background, Reuben gets a call saying they have to leave the city right away, preempting his promise for pizza. Samira is displeased to say the least, but it doesn’t take long to see what they’re up against. As the sky fills with what appear to be meteors crashing to earth, the streets are soon a chaos of violent creatures swooping up New Yorkers quickly enough to leave their bloody deaths only to the imagination.

Samira is covered with dust and knocked unconscious, and when she awakens, she finds that plenty of others have gotten word not to say a word. Many of them are heading south down Manhattan toward a promised evacuation by sea, but Samira’s still got that hankering for pizza, which is perhaps not so illogical given that her days were numbered in the first place. As she heads north toward Harlem with her service cat in tow, she meets a discombobulated businessman, Eric (Joseph Quinn), who is on board for whatever lies ahead of them.


The Quiet Place movies remain a real cinematic anomaly in 2024, movies from a loud genre (alien invasion/disaster movie) that are compelled by their conceit to remain quiet. While it’s debatable whether the 2020 sequel to the 2018 original offered enough new to make it really distinctive, seeing as how it was following the same characters farther along on their journey, A Quiet Place: Day One is back with plenty of new ideas. That’s in addition to finding two extremely compelling leads, to say nothing of good actors, in Nyong’o and Quinn. The urban environment is perhaps the greatest giver of these new ideas, as both of the previous films took place among the detritus of a society already forgotten, away from the big city. Here, we get to see in what ways a big city is both a help and a hindrance to the cause of survival.

And it results in some clever details in Sarnoski’s film. Whereas the first two films gave the impression these aliens were lying in wait almost everywhere you might be, ready to punish a single noise within seconds of you making it, here we get more of a sense of the way they fill the space, and how long it might actually take them to reach the source of the noise. The characters smartly use that to their advantage, such as hurling objects to smash car windows, so the creatures will be drawn to the smashing sound, not to where the fleeing people have actually gone.


And yes there are a fair number of big action set pieces, the sort that are the unspoken promise of any film like this. But Sarnoski uses the contemplativeness he brought to the Nicolas Cage film that put him on our radar, Pig, to slow down the film to his own speed, and to linger in peronsal moments – quiet moments, if you will – for longer than you might give his audience credit for tolerating. The bond that develops between Samira and Eric is all the richer for it, and Sarnoski finds ways that obey the rules to bring their communication beyond the mere sign language of gestures. For example, they rightly discover that a heavy rain will cloak their louder whispers, even taking advantage of thunder claps to scream their frustration.


We’re still looking at a conventionally satisfying film here, one that doesn’t stray too far from our expectations. And there may be one too many proofs that these people priortise the little things in the face of doomsday. (How many times can you  save the same mischievous cat?). But A Quiet Place: Day One is a pretty savvy summer blockbuster – it’s summer in the U.S., remember – that capitalises on its IP, while still giving us wrinkles that point toward other stories worth telling within this universe. You can’t really make A Quiet Place: Day Two, as the movie takes place over at least a few days. But there are threads you could follow, and it would be a satisfying journey.


A Quiet Place: Day One is currently playing in cinemas.

7 / 10