A Quiet Place: a horror masterclass

The ‘what if’ question is often a good way to start the process of creating a story for a writer. To come up with a meaty concept. In A Quiet Place it’s: what if alien type monsters arrived on earth and could hunt us based on the tiniest sounds we make?

So with the inevitable when (and it’s always a when) of when you break the silence, you’ll find it’s game over moments later, because these predators are insanely fast and nigh on indestructible.

The only way to survive is to be utterly silent.
At all times.
Or die.

Which is where we start.

Searching for supplies in an abandoned town we meet Lee Abbott (John Krasinkski) and his family. It’s clear the slightest noise they make is a BIG DEAL. So they use sign language and move around barefoot, walking from their farm to the town and back on trails of sand they’ve painstakingly put down everywhere.

Whilst Lee and his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) are highly aware of what might happen should they make a noise, the kids are slightly less mindful of the danger (being kids), except maybe oldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds).

The thing that struck me in these opening exchanges is how Krasinkski as director allows us into the characters’ world with such ease. He sets out the roles within the family dynamic and how they interact in such a simple, effective and visual way. All in the first few moments, and all in silence.

And this is made particularly impressive by the fact that the majority of modern mainsteam studio films start guns blazing… all dialogue, action, music, mayhem turned up to 11.

So it’s refreshing, palate cleansing almost, that Krasinski starts the way he does. Showing a confidence in his material and commitment to his vision as a filmmaker.

This in spite of the fact that it’s only his third outing as director and, being a contributing writer as well as one of the leads, it seems like it should be too much for him (or anyone) to handle, but he appears right at home.

It probably helps he brought part of his home with him – at least in terms of acting (for the first time) opposite his real-life wife, Emily Blunt. As this makes for an easy and believable chemistry (you’d worry if they didn’t get this bit right) and, to be honest, if you can get Emily Blunt in your movie, then get Emily Blunt in your movie. I’m a big fan and she brought a lot to the role.

The best parts of this film, unsurprisingly, come in the quietest moments.

By this I mean not necessarily the sound, but the little details, the grace notes, the thought and care the filmmakers put into creating this world. From the VFX people and how they created the monsters, to the design and layout of the farm and even down to the clothes the characters wear (all rugged, chunky knits in rich, earthy, natural colours).

There is also delicate detail in the way the tension builds slowly and feels real. Opposite to how – with most horror – you’re expecting a monster or killer to jump out and eviscerate one of the expendable characters, or even a lead character, often quite early in proceedings. Here you’re hoping and praying the family don’t suffer the same fate.

I found I cared a lot more about the Abbott family then I have ever done for a group of attractive teens trying to evade a slasher killer, for example.

And this probably comes down to the message the movie is trying to put across about how difficult it is being a parent in the modern world. After a traumatic incident early on that sets the stakes and illustrates the danger, the rest of the movie is basically Lee and Evelyn trying their hardest to protect their kids and just live their lives.

Evelyn even says to Lee at one point, ‘Who are we if we cannot protect our kids?’.

And talking of kids, special mention should go to the actors that play the two eldest children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe). Both put in superb performances, particularly Millicent, who blames, and is angry, at herself, after the incident early on, and just wants her father’s love, but doesn’t feel she deserves it.

For me, Krasinski was also something of a surprise. I’ve not really seen him in anything before, just knew his name. He was almost Captain America at one point, and you can see why. He’s a commanding presence and holds the screen and has handsome, everyman hero written all over him. He’s also very expressive without having to say anything. One to watch as both a director and a leading man. I’m keen to see what he does next.

In terms of A Quiet Place though, it’s superb. Even if you aren’t really into horror, it’s so much more than that really. It’s emotionally very affecting, tense, tender and will leave you thinking about its themes for days after.

Who are the most ‘in form’ British actresses right now?

Now I was going to use the word ‘hot’ to describe this list, as in ‘they’re so hot right now’, but it seems a bit American for a list of British actresses. So for anyone into sport I’ve gone with ‘in form’, so you’ll get it – and I mean acting talent not physical form. Of course they’re all beautiful as well (goes without saying), but this is about their ability to convince us of their character and performance on screen.

Here are my favourites with some of their work listed; ones who have been lighting up the screen in impressive ways over the last few years. It’s a mixed list, which is a good thing.

Up-and-comers like Emilia Clarke, Lily Collins and Imogen Poots are still finding their feet and working on the odd clunker, whereas others like Alice Eve, Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones really need to be in decent stuff a bit more often, given their talent.

I would say Emily Blunt, Kate Winslet and Carey Mulligan are leading the way as the most ‘in form’ at the moment. Plus Winslet really should get some sort of lifetime achievement award at some point. She’s got ten years on the rest of the women on this list and has consistently worked on good projects throughout her career – she’s so impressive.

Emily Blunt
Sicario, Edge of Tomorrow, Looper, The Adjustment Bureau
Hayley Atwell
Agent Carter, Ant-Man, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Lily Collins
Mirror Mirror, Love, Rosie
Carey Mulligan
Suffragette, Far From The Madding Crowd, Shame, Drive, Inside Llewyn Davis

Rebecca Hall
Iron Man 3, The Gift, Transcendence, The Town, Closed Circuit
Alice Eve
Starter For 10, Crossing Over, Star Trek Into Darkness
Emma Watson
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, The Bling Ring, Noah
Emilia Clarke
Game of Thrones, Terminator Genisys
Rosamund Pike
Gone Girl, Jack Reacher, The World’s End
Juno Temple
Far From The Madding Crowd, Killer Joe, Cracks, Black Mass
Romola Garai
Suffragette, The Hour, The Crimson Petal and the White
Felicity Jones
The Theory of Everything, Like Crazy, Chalet Girl
Sienna Miller
High-Rise, Mississippi Grind, American Sniper, Foxcatcher

Imogen Poots
A Long Way Down, Filth, The Look Of Love, Cracks
Jessica Brown Findlay
Victor Frankenstein, The Riot Club
Naomi Watts
While We’re Young, Birdman, Insurgent
Kate Winslet
Steve Jobs, The Dressmaker, Labor Day, Carnage, Insurgent/Divergent

kate-winslet-_THE-DRESSMAKER_

Looper review: Bruce Willis and Blunderbuses!

Initially I had read various reviews before seeing Looper – a bad idea, but there you go. So I went to see this film with relatively high hopes for a high-concept time travel film, which is what you get. Except it isn’t, not exactly.

To explain, just before seeing it I was having dinner near the cinema and got talking to the waiter. I mentioned I was going to see a film, ‘Oh, what are you going to see?’ he asked. “Looper” I replied. ‘I’ve seen it’ he said, ‘it’s not what I expected’.

gordon-levitt bruce willisWith that I left the restaurant a little puzzled. It was not the first time someone had said something similar. So I made my way to the cinema a little apprehensive, but still open-minded and ready for a good film. I was hoping for time travel, big guns, assassins, explosions, double crossing, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis facing off against each other and ultimately teaming up to defeat a common enemy.

Now you do get a lot of these elements, but not in the way you might think. Remember this is from the same Director that gave us Brick, so I should have been prepared for something a little left-field, not your obvious tone and style. I think, like a lot of high-concept films, this will require a second viewing to fully appreciate it.

In terms of the film’s big draw, the marketing types would like you to focus on Willis (established actor) facing off against his younger self, Gordon-Levitt (up and coming actor). However I felt the Director was slightly playing a trick on the audience and this film was really about a character called the Rainmaker.

Let’s set the scene. Gordon-Levitt is a ‘looper’, an assassin who kills people sent back in time, as it’s somewhat hard to commit murder in the future. Easier to send bodies back and have loopers dispose of them. As this is highly illegal loopers have a short life span, in that their employers look to send them back to be killed by their younger selves when they’ve outlived their usefulness. This is called ‘closing your loop’.

Where it all begins..
Now the story kicks off when Bruce is sent back for his loop to be closed, but evades assassination as he’s got his own agenda. He plans to whack his future boss – the mysterious Rainmaker – who happens to be a child in Gordon-Levitt’s time.

looper farmHis younger self feels killing children who may or may not become future crime lords is a little excessive, so sets out to stop him and protect the kid. Now, for me, that’s what this film is about, however it takes a while to get there.

All the high-concept time travel stuff has to be set up first, Gordon-Levitt’s world, how he goes about his job, his older self and his motivation for coming back in time. As a result, I felt all the key stuff comes in the third act – with a slightly sagging middle in terms of pace, when Gordon-Levitt meets Emily Blunt’s character. No reflection on Ms Blunt, I think she’s great.

That said, the ‘sagging’ section is just slower in pace but does contain a lot of plot revelations and key scenes. To be honest, I’ve found writing this piece quite hard without giving too much away. Much like a scene in the film in a diner where Willis and Gordon-Levitt face off against each – reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat – and Willis remarks on how too much discussion of time travel will only end with them making straw diagrams and getting a headache.

Let’s just sum up. I did like this film and want to see it again – if only to get my head around it. I feel maybe Bruce’s character could have had more back-story, so we sympathise more with his reasons for coming back to the past. Perhaps Rian Johnson’s script could have been more brutal in early scenes to save time and move things along quicker.

All in all though, a really interesting film and concept and worth seeing. Just don’t expect your average high-octane, pump the action up to 10 and keep it there, type film. It’s more considered and ultimately better for it.

To finish, here’s some artwork by an illustrator from Uruguay I’d like to share. Until next time…