Film Review: 'A Quiet Place: Day One' is a Prequel Done Right – Awards Radar

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Despite enjoying both prior films in the franchise quite a bit, I actually went into A Quiet Place: Day One with some level of apprehension. A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place Part II had managed to find smaller, more character based stories within a monster movie premise. Would this prequel, trafficking in more blockbuster territory, have any hope of capturing that same feeling? Well, to my surprise, the answer is a resounding yes.
A Quiet Place: Day One is the rare prequel that doesn’t exist purely as a money grab. Having an interesting filmmaker like Michael Sarnoski at the helm certainly helps, but resisting the urge to fully make this a dumb blockbuster really makes all the difference. There are science fiction and horror tropes at play, but we’re always meant to be invested in our survivors. It’s a different flavor than the last two flicks in some ways, but in others, it’s clearly part of a whole.
The title doesn’t bury the lead, as this is day one of the alien invasion depicted in the franchise. We begin by being introduced to terminally ill patient Sam (Lupita Nyong’o). In hospice care, she’s convinced by a friendly nurse (Alex Wolff) to accompany some other patients, along with her cat Frodo, to New York City for a show. While there, the city feels off, which they soon realize is because an alien invasion is taking place. Creatures with ultrasonic hearing have fallen from the sky and are terrorizing humanity. Helped by Henri (Djimon Hounsou), the pair survive the initial moments of the attack. However, things are only beginning.
Determined to make it up to Harlem where she grew up, Sam and Frodo begin a journey of survival that pairs them up with Eric (Joseph Quinn). The duo, along with the very resourceful cat, form a bond that gives them hope as the world goes silent. For Sam, her days are numbered, but she’s determined not to go out without a slice of New York pizza, among other things.
Lupita Nyong’o is a great choice for a role that requires lots of facial acting. She and Joseph Quinn get to do a ton without much speaking, especially once the first act concludes. There’s physicality to their performances that fits in an action epic, but also here as a nearly dialogue free character piece. You root for them both. Djimon Hounsou is mostly a cameo, considering his other appearance in the series, while Alex Wolff once again works with Sarnoski. There are other small roles here, but A Quiet Place: Day One opts for a bigger scale while still keeping our heroes to a minimum.
Co-writer/director Michael Sarnoski blew me away with Pig and here, he manages to show that he potentially can do just about anything. The script he wrote, with a Story By credit going to John Krasinski, gives us characters worth rooting for. If there’s a flaw here, it’s that the actual monster and summer movie elements are a bit more meh. There aren’t major set pieces, with a lot of the encounters feeling like haunted house rides. While it’s designed to be the Aliens to the Alien of the other films, this one doesn’t thrill quite as much as it intends to. At the same time, there’s a shocking amount of emotion in the third act here, as well as genuine tension whenever the cat appears to be in peril.
A Quiet Place: Day One is a better character/dramatic piece than a monster movie, but both certainly work. This is a prequel done right and a real pleasant surprise. If this is how the franchise is going to be treated going forward, I think there’s potential to continue on with more installments. Either way, the trilogy we have now is among the better ones in recent memory.
SCORE: ★★★

[…] This is a prequel done right and a real pleasant surprise.— Joey Magidson, Awards Radar […]
[…] This is a prequel done right and a real pleasant surprise.— Joey Magidson, Awards Radar […]
[…] Film Review: ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ is a Prequel Done Right […]
[…] to maintain the suspense that made the original “A Quiet Place” a success story. AwardRadar notes that the film “resists the urge to fully become a dumb blockbuster,” keeping the […]

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