The film’s opening shot is of a traffic light, that emblem of order and control, lying on its side. Soon, we are in an abandoned supermarket, where a bare-footed family of five is gathering — very, very quietly — some of the items it needs to survive.
We don’t get to know them by name, but they are the Abbotts: Evelyn (Blunt), Lee (Krasinski) and their three children. The youngest covets a battery-operated toy aircraft, which could spell trouble. One of the many small strokes of genius about A Quiet Place is that, although the narrative provokes many questions, we’re too distracted to need answers.
Either that, or we can make up the answers ourselves. Boldly, Krasinski and his co-writers, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, withhold much of the information that a lesser film might divulge. This is ‘Day 89’ — but since what? An alien invasion, presumably.
And why do the Abbotts at first appear to be the only human survivors in this ravaged world? Perhaps because their oldest child, Regan (Millicent Simmonds, the marvellous, hearing-impaired actress who also appears in another of this week’s releases, Wonderstruck) is deaf. So they can all communicate in sign language.
There are only sporadic bursts of dialogue louder than a whisper, which of course cranks up the tension. But there’s a lovely moment next to a roaring waterfall, when Lee persuades Regan’s younger brother Marcus (the excellent young British actor Noah Jupe) that he can give a rare bellow, since the noise of the cascading water will stop his shout reaching alien ears.
Meanwhile, glimpses of alarming newspaper headlines — Stay Silent, Stay Alive — imply that humanity, what little is left of it, is purely on the defensive. Why didn’t all those gun-owners in America fight back? Well, because sound attracts more and more of the critters. But in any case, we are only concerned with the Abbotts, who by Day 472, having endured one family tragedy, must avert another.
They are holed up in a remote farmhouse where Evelyn is about to give birth to the couple’s fourth child, but, with no access to pain relief, how can she do so noiselessly?