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A Quiet Place: Day One (Christian Movie Review)

About the Film 

A Quiet Place (2018) was a surprising smash hit. It thrilled audiences not just with its ingenious storytelling approach of limited dialogue but also with director John Krasinski’s impressive ability to maintain emotional human drama at the center of the monster-induced terror. The sequel, A Quiet Place: Part Two (2020) followed suit, earning praise from audiences and critics alike. Now, with a different director and a new cast of characters, A Quiet Place: Day One is transporting audiences back in time to the onset of the alien invasion. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but with an immersive urban setting, compelling acting performances, and a meaningful human story amid the horror and thrills, the film proves that there is plenty of road left for this franchise.   

Prequels are notoriously tricky to get right (just last month, Furiosa, a prequel to the critically acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road, was a colossal box office failure). Day One manages to retain familiar elements from the original films while still infusing fresh ideas into the established template. Whereas the first two movies were set in isolated, rural areas, Day One takes place in New York City. The urban environment provides an intriguing new aesthetic that differentiates this film from the first two entries in the series. But despite moving the story into the busy city, Day One takes its cue from its predecessors by zooming in on the characters’ personal journeys rather than losing itself in mass spectacle.   

What elevates the A Quiet Place series above the fray has been its restraint from including desensitizing violence. Despite the alien carnage, Day One—like the previous two films—affirms the value of life, largely thanks to its easy-to-root-for characters.    

Anyone worried that the loss of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt might derail the series can breathe easy (just do so quietly!). Both Lupita Nyong’o and Joesph Quinn are great in the lead roles, demonstrating lots of charisma and chemistry even without much dialogue. Day One is a compelling human drama with the backdrop of an alien invasion. Cut out the alien plot, and there’s a hypothetical version of this movie that works as a meaningful emotional drama.     

Unfortunately, the “alien invasion” component is not quite as effective as the human element. There are certainly moments of entertaining tension, such as an edge-of-your-seat sequence in a flooded subway station. But the film lacks some of the cleverness of the first movies. Director Michael Sarnoski’s approach leans into frenetic chases and action rather than escalating dread. If the original two films took inspiration from horror classics like Ridley Scott’s Alien or Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, then this prequel is more akin to James Cameron’s Aliens or the later Jurassic World movies. Granted, three films into the series, the “fear of the unknown” that worked so effectively in the early movies would be more difficult to achieve. Thus, Day One relies on an expanded scope, attempting to unsettle audiences with stampedes of aliens, like piranhas in a feeding frenzy. These sequences are exciting, but they are less memorable than the brilliant scene of Emily Blunt stepping on a nail in the first film.    

Overall, when compared to the first two movies, A Quiet Place: Day One is the weakest of the trilogy—although that is more of a testament to the quality of the earlier films than a criticism of the prequel. When measured against most other horror/thriller movies, Day One is a worthy new entry that keeps the A Quiet Place series firmly rooted in its place as one of the best horror franchises going today. The established template and “silent movie” storytelling mechanism will inevitably grow stale, but that day hasn’t come yet.

On the Surface

For Consideration

Beneath The Surface

Engage The Film

Grief and Joy in Life      

The beauty of horror movies is that they often explore deeper human experiences. The first film was—according to the filmmakers—largely an extended metaphor for parenting, of seeking to protect and equip children to navigate a hostile world that is eager to snatch them up and devour them. Beneath the surface of the alien invasion, Day One is a story about grief, mortality, and embracing the life you have rather than longing for the one you wish you had.    

Sam (played by Lupita Nyong’o) is dying, her body ravaged by the same illness that took her father’s life. The chaos caused by the alien invasion serves as a metaphor for Sam’s internal emotional state. She is physically trapped on an island and surrounded by death, but she also feels isolated and devoid of joy and wonder. There’s a moving scene early in the film when she unwillingly attends a childish puppet show, and the simple innocence and wonder it inspires brings her to tears.     

Paradoxically, it is in the middle of the devastating alien invasion that Sam ultimately learns to accept her life. Interestingly, the turning point of her newfound peace begins while the characters are sheltering in a church building. Outside of that religious setting, the film doesn’t explore spiritual matters. But Sam’s journey echoes the biblical wisdom that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).   

I won’t spoil the ending, but I suspect Christian viewers may have conflicting opinions on the final scene. If taken literally, it arguably undercuts some of the movie’s positive message. On the other hand, when considered metaphorically, the ending is less problematic and serves as a powerful fulfillment of the film’s themes.   

  

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