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Review: ‘A Quiet Place’ had me (silently) cheering

April 4, 2018 GMT

It’s easy to root for John Krasinski.

I think that’s because on “The Office,” Krasinski’s Jim was the cool one who was on our side, constantly making faces of recognition and inside jokes to the camera -- us.

But as I settled in my seat for “A Quiet Place,” where Krasinski and Emily Blunt play scared and protective parents, I realized I didn’t actually know if Krasinski was a good actor. I thought, at least, he must pale in comparison next to Blunt -- his real-life spouse -- who consistently delivers performances filled with strength and emotion.

Turns out, he’s a perfectly capable actor. And the surprise twist: I didn’t realize until the end credits of “A Quiet Place” that Krasinski was actually the director of the film, too. He must know how to shoot his own best angles.

It’s not Krasinski’s first feature film directorial debut -- that honor goes to “The Hollars” from 2016 -- and he also is the credited director of three episodes of “The Office.”

Who knew you had it in you, Jim?

“A Quiet Place” is terrifying without being overly sensationalized. The premise is simple, clean and effective: There’s a monster out there, and its only sense it appears to be able to use is hearing, but it can hear the smallest sounds from really far away, so in order to survive, you have to be extremely quiet all the time.

I thought of one of my dear mentors from college, a biology professor, and wondered what he would say about the probability of a creature evolving with extremely attuned hearing but with no apparent sense of smell or sight. Then there’s the fact that in nature, some animals like bats already can effectively see using echolocation so if the monster wanted to see the family couldn’t it just listen for the sound waves to bounce off their bodies and find them that way even if they’re being quiet themselves -- and then there was a loud bang in the theater and I was jolted back into the movie and wow it was really fun.

Because that’s the thing about “A Quiet Place.” The believability of the premise matters as much as it does in old-school monster movies. And anyway, it’s believable because the actors make it believable. And it is a ton of fun to watch.

The child leads, too, are well suited to the material. Millicent Simmonds plays Regan, the oldest daughter who has a strained relationship with her father, and Noah Jupe plays her brother Marcus. They both do a good job, especially Simmonds, who carries most of the emotional weight of the story.

Emily Blunt is, unsurprisingly, terrific. I already see her as Mary Poppins, so it was disappointing when she never pulls out a magic bag with just the right monster-fighting thing. She reminded me most of her performance in “Looper”: hardened, resilient, full of heart.

It’s simply a horror-film joy to see a family constantly try to be quiet when all they want to do is scream. It’s a premise of “Wait Until Dark” simplicity, and Krasinski milks the tension for all it’s worth.

But he also shows some restraint. This is not an ugly film, or a hateful film, as sometimes movies in this genre can accidentally become. I’m probably using the word “fun” a bit too much here -- watching the movie is a little bit like holding back a thousand sneezes. But it’s more like watching other people hold back a thousand sneezes.

And of course, there are a few key moments where sound is, finally, released. And those bursts couldn’t be more satisfying.