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'A Quiet Place' is a gem

John Krasinski's directorial debut thrills and shines.

This is a mostly spoiler-free review of 'A Quiet Place', but if you haven't seen the movie and don't want anything given away, come back and read after your trip to the theater.

As you're reading this, stop for a moment and listen. Just listen. Hear all the little noises that surround you in your daily life: the hum of a fan, the clicking of the keyboard beneath your fingers, the chatter from the television, the squeak of your hardwood floors. We often tune out those sounds; they're almost meaningless to us.

But in John Krasinski's (The Office, 13 Hours) directorial debut, A Quiet Place, those little sounds are the difference between life and death. Set in a believable, not-too-distant future, Krasinski plays Lee Abbott, the patriarch of a family that survived an invasion of monstrous creatures that hunt by sound. The family has adapted, mostly. Communicating by sign language comes naturally as Regan (Millicent Simmonds), the daughter, is deaf. They go without shoes and step carefully on painted paths in the hallways and stairways of their house. Lee is highly organized, smart, and determined to keep his family alive while figuring out what weaknesses the creatures have, if any.

Yet even the most carefully laid plans go terribly, tragically awry. The family is shaken by the loss of their youngest son, Beau (Cade Woodward), not long after the invasion wiped out most of humanity. Time jumps ahead about a year after the heart-stopping opening; both Lee and wife Evelyn (played by Krasinski's real-life spouse, Emily Blunt) harbor guilt over the loss as does Regan, who feels Beau's death is her fault, and worries her father blames her. Marcus (Noah Jupe) is traumatized by Beau's death in a different way, afraid to leave the family farm with his father, who wants to teach Marcus how to survive in a world turned on its ear. It is, at its core, a story of a family and parents trying to protect their children at all costs. Evelyn even asks Lee, "Who are we if we can't protect them?"

The most outstanding component of the film is its use of sound. Or, more precisely, the lack thereof. There is minimal dialogue; subtitles translate the sign language for us. We hear what the characters hear and, in Regan's case, what they can't hear. The action, drama, and tension are built and punctuated by Marco Beltrami's (I, Robot, World War Z) beautiful and meticulous score.

Krasinski also co-wrote the film with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. The screenplay is crisp and clean, clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes, and does a solid job of showing rather than telling the audience what is going on. You see the bare feet, you see the soundproof room, you see Evelyn readying a special quiet crib for the child she's set to give birth to any day. Krasinski is also masterful behind the camera, setting up interesting and complex shots, and using light and darkness to capture the tension and terror of the Abbott family. You are compelled to like the characters, to care about what happens to them, and the small cast gives strong performances on all counts.

The flaws of the film are few; it relies a little too heavily on jump-scares and is reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan's Signs in some respects. It stands to blow away the competition at the box office, projected to earn $48 million or more opening weekend, putting it ahead of both 2017's Get Out and last week's release ' Ready Player One.

While classified as a horror, the blood and gore are kept to a necessary minimum and there is no explicit language; it is more of a thriller and a drama than something likely to induce nightmares, but it does warrant its PG-13 rating for some of the intensity.

If you're looking for a movie to see this weekend, A Quiet Place should be at the top of your list.

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