A Quiet Place: Day One Review—Lupita Nyong’o Shines in Alien Invasion Film

By   |   June 27, 2024   |   Entertainment

You might expect—particularly from the marketing and its two predecessor movies—that A Quiet Place: Day One is a cut-and-dried fleeing from the alien tale to reach the shores of safety. Think again.

Because our heroine, clutching her scene-stealing therapy cat, Sam, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is not the least a bit interested in what would be a traditional goal of fleeing to the community isle of safehouses (seen in the last Part II installment). The first 20 minutes of the film drop her entire deal (which we won’t spoil here!).

On a bus trip on a field trip downtown New York, she complains like a petulant kindergartener (to an excellent Alex Wolff) when their itinerary to a Harlem pizzeria is canceled during a special outing. These scenes let us absorb the full scale of Sam’s character, her fervor to maneuver against the expected flow, while later depositing her backstory in crumbs. Her interest is simply survive on her own terms at a beloved childhood haunt. Nyong’o is so magnetic and disappears into Sam’s reclusiveness that I had to double-take at her already excellent characterization in Black Panther and compare the two.

Little does she and New York know at this moment that an alien invasion is descending on Earth. For those who’ve seen the franchise, you know the drill. The two Quiet Place alien-invasion horror films had an aesthetic M.O.: tell an apocalyptic story where the stakes hinge on staying quiet. If you make a loud noise, the blind four-legged aliens will charge toward you. In this world, swallowing your cries and screams spares you from a worse fate.

As the Army communications announced evacuation to the boats (the aliens don’t do well in deep water), Sam ignores the call and heads to get her Harlem pizza. From the chaos emerges a bewildered Eric (Joseph Quinn), a law student. He happens to lay eyes on Sam’s cat as if it is some guardian angel. And by instinct, perhaps when stress scrambles your mind in times of trauma, he follows the cat and encounters Sam.

What happens next miraculously occupies the runtime. Despite Sam’s whispering urge for him to retreat to the boats so she can make her own lonely journey, he forgoes immediate pursuit of his own security to escort Sam to Harlem, which has closure waiting for her.

A Quiet Place: Day One is actually the weakest as an alien invasion film under Michael Sarnoski’s direction (a screenplay co-written with John Krasinski, who recruited Sarnoski due to his direction-screenwriting in Pig), though emitting sufficient eeriness across its apocalyptic landscape and moneyed waterlogged and aflame setpieces. Unfortunately, I felt even the solid sound design also slouched, appearing less playful and experimental than the previous movies, and the life-or-death noises seemed dampened in comparison.

But the time and care it gives to the companionship between Eric and Sam (and, yes, the troublesome cat) renders it a more than worthwhile quest, reaching a destination like a satisfying short story with closure. Ultimately, this installment makes a case that the yearning for companionship—born out of a chance encounter between strangers—is what keeps us alive.

A Quiet Place: Day One, now playing in theaters nationwide.

photo credit: Paramount

Filed Under: Entertainment
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