A Quiet Place: Day One Review - IGN (2024)

A Quiet Place: Day One opens in theaters Friday, June 28.

It’s impressive just how great A Quiet Place: Day One is. Not that the first two Quiet Place movies weren’t good – they’re both strong films in their own right. But this spinoff/prequel to those earlier films introduces new characters in a new setting that successfully elevates both the tension and the emotional impact of John Krasinski’s nearly dialogue-free horror films. The result is the series’ best movie to date.

As the title implies, Day One brings us back to the very beginning, to the day sightless alien creatures with extremely sharp hearing first crash down to Earth. Yes, we saw some of this invasion play out in A Quiet Place Part II’s harrowing prologue, but the big difference here is a change of scenery: Where that sequence was set in a small town in Upstate New York, Day One takes place right in the middle of Manhattan. That change gives the action a different feel, which only expands as the movie charts the first steps toward the post-apocalyptic world established in the first two films.

A Quiet Place: Day One Gallery

Our main character this time out is Samira (Lupita Nyong'o), who’s in town on a day trip during a time of personal crisis. As fate would have it, she won’t be catching a bus home that afternoon, due to the nightmarish creatures who show up and mercilessly wipe out any humans they hear in their vicinity. Nyong'o is a proven talent – she has an Oscar for a reason. And yet, perhaps because she’s only made a handful of movies since her breakout performance in 12 Years a Slave, every new role she plays feels like a reminder of what a terrific actor she is and how effortlessly she holds the screen. The opening scenes of A Quiet Place: Day One establish what Samira’s life is like and the impulsive hostility she’s sometimes capable of – an efficient explanation of what causes her behavior. But it’s Nyong'o’s performance that does the heavy lifting of quickly connecting us to her, so that we’re invested even before the world starts ending.

As the survivors of the aliens’ initial attack process what happened and how quiet they need to be to avoid detection, Samira finds a new focus. She knows exactly where in the city she wants to travel. Her reasoning becomes clear as time goes on, and by that point, writer-director Michael Sarnoski (taking over for Krasinski, who returns as executive producer and receives a “story by” credit) has fully immersed us in this story, grounding an outrageous premise in a relatable emotional core.

Sarnoski pulled off a similar trick in his first feature, 2021’s Pig, turning the story of Nicolas Cage tracking down his stolen pet foraging pig into something so empathetic and soulful. The other Quiet Place movies have powerful, compassionate moments of their own, but Day One manages to dig deeper. In a film that only sparingly uses dialogue, Sarnoski and his talented cast manage to convey a lot through brief yet meaningful glances and small observations. The prequel underlines the awful, nearly impossible plight of its protagonists. Could you truly stay silent while moving fast? Or if you were in terrible pain? Or if you were just plain terrified? There are several wrenching moments throughout that demonstrate just what an ordeal this would be, and why so many wouldn’t survive it.

This is especially true once Samira meets British law student Eric (Joseph Quinn). Barely holding it together, Eric latches on to Samira. He sheepishly follows her, whether she likes it or not, and their dynamic adds more heart to Day One. We see how Eric and Samira rapidly forge a real connection, even though they can’t really speak to one another. Quinn is wonderful at displaying Eric’s sweetness and vulnerability through his actions, rather than any big monologue, and he proves to be the perfect scene partner for Nyong'o.

Day One underlines the awful, nearly impossible plight of its protagonists.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the emotional components of A Quiet Place: Day One, so I should also note that this movie is truly scary and often intense as hell. (It gets an extra jolt in IMAX, where the sound design genuinely made me feel like I was in the middle of a city under siege.) There are terrific scenes throughout that ratchet up the tension, such as when our heroes must travel through a flooded subway tunnel. When the aliens attack, it’s brutal and memorable – this is one of the harder-edged PG-13 films in recent memory. Sarnoski gets a lot of visual mileage out of the creatures swarming the streets of New York and scurrying across skyscrapers, which is especially impressive considering how many other monster movies have used the city as their backdrop. There’s a genuine dread that sells this as a believable look at how people would react to a situation so beyond comprehension and so out of their control.

Day One is mainly a two-hander between Nyong'o and Quinn, though Alex Wolff (who worked with Sarnoski on Pig) does good work in a smaller role. Djimon Hounsou also pops up to reprise his role as Henri from A Quiet Place Part II – the only real attempt to establish more connective tissue to the larger Quiet Place franchise. It’s fan service, but to the film’s credit, there isn’t any eye-rolling foreshadowing of what Henri’s future holds. (You can absolutely enjoy Day One without any prior knowledge of A Quiet Place.)

There’s one other significant character: Frodo, Samira’s therapy cat. As a cat lover, I was nervous for Frodo from the get-go – after all, this is a film series that kicks off with the death of a young boy. I won’t say whether Frodo makes it out alive or not, but I will say that the two cats playing him, Nico and Schnitzel, give excellent performances. Granted, the extent to which Frodo never meows or cries out – no matter what is occurring around him – requires a tremendous suspension of disbelief. Look, I have cats, and they truly won’t shut up when they’re hungry. But Frodo is just built different, okay?

A Quiet Place: Day One Review - IGN (2024)

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