A Quiet Place: Day One (2024)

Rating: B-

Dir: Michael Sarnoski
Star: Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff, Djimon Hounsou

I wasn’t impressed by A Quiet Place, to the point I didn’t bother watching the sequel. It didn’t feel like the concept had any real scope for further expansion. Seems the makers felt the same way, albeit arriving a bit late to that party. The third installment goes back to the beginning, and shows us how the alien invasion kicked off. I’m inclined to think they should have done it to begin with, then built upon the solid foundation this provides. It works both as apocalyptic spectacle, and small-scale drama, depicting the impact on individuals. As well as cats, with the chillest cinematic feline this side of A Garfield Movie. We’ll return to that later, trust me.

On the human front, it follows Sam (Nyong’o), a resident of a New York hospice, who is on an excursion into Manhattan when the sound-sensitive monsters arrive. Her terminal illness gives Sam a certain fatalism about the situation, and rather than seeking escape, she decides to head for a beloved pizza place in Harlem. On the way, she joins forces with Eric (Quinn), a law student who is barely hanging on, physically and mentally. The odd couple, inevitably, become indispensable to each other, as they make their way through an eerily destroyed and increasingly deserted New York (actually a convincing facsimile, shot in England). I was getting a lot of 9/11 vibes there, especially from the thick coating of dust covering everything and everyone (top). 

It’s the relationship between Sam and Eric that is at the film’s core, and when it works best, so does the movie. A sequence set in an abandoned jazz club, where Sam’s father used to play, is likely the best. It delivers an emotional heart I found largely lacking in the original film. It’s impressive since the circumstances mean dialogue is severely limited, but Sarnoski does a good job of developing things instead through the non-verbal communication between them. The ever-present threat of the aliens is, naturally, only present when necessary to the plot. Though the discovery they can’t swim – shades of the extraterrestrial visitor in Signs – renders certain elements of the first movie even more implausible, if my memory serves me right.

Then there’s the cat. Sam has a pet, Frodo, whom she brings with her into Manhattan. [Fun fact: Nyong’o had to overcome her fear of felines for the role] That pussy deserves his own franchise, being put through hell and staying with his owner, well past the point when most kittehs would say, “Screw this for a saucer of milk” and bolt up the nearest tree. It did provoke a discussion on the way home as to whether we would cart our two cats around, in the event of an alien invasion. I suspect Chris would end up having to make a Sophie’s Choice. In such a situation, I would not bet on the survival of the fat one, who hides in the closet any time we bring out the vacuum. Sorry, Oscar. Good luck hunting the pigeons.