Review: ‘A Quiet Place: Day One,’ starring Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff and Djimon Hounsou

June 27, 2024

by Carla Hay

Joseph Quinn and Lupita Nyong’o in “A Quiet Place: Day One” (Photo by Gareth Gatrell/Paramount Pictures)

“A Quiet Place: Day One”

Directed by Michael Sarnoski

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the sci-fi horror film “A Quiet Place: Day One” features a cast of white and black characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A woman with cancer fights to survive during an apocalypse where outer-space aliens have invaded Earth.  

Culture Audience: “A Quiet Place: Day One” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Quiet Place” franchise, the movie’s headliners, and horror films that have a lot of humanity along with the scares.

Lupita Nyong’o and Djimon Hounsou in “A Quiet Place: Day One” (Photo by Gareth Gatrell/Paramount Pictures)

Despite some flaws in the movie’s screenplay and film editing, “A Quiet Place: Day One” is an admirable prequel that will grip viewers with suspense and heartfelt humanity. Lupita Nyong’o is superb.

Written and directed by Michael Sarnoski, “A Quiet Place: Day One” is a prequel to 2018’s “A Quiet Place” and 2021’s “A Quiet Place Part II.” John Krasinski directed and co-wrote “A Quiet Place” and “A Quiet Place Part II,” and he is a producer of “A Quiet Place: Day One.” Krasinski was also one of the stars in “A Quiet Place,” in which he portrayed the husband of his real-life wife Emily Blunt, who also starred in “A Quiet Place Part II.”

The movies in the “Quiet Place” series are about outer-space aliens invading Earth. These giant creatures, which have some physical characteristics of insects and reptiles, are blind but they have extremely acute hearing, which is their main way of identifying those that the creatures can attack and kill. As the movie’s title indicates, “A Quiet Place: Day One” shows what happens on the first day of this alien invasion.

“A Quiet Place” and “A Quiet Place Part II” had a family as the focus of the stories. In “A Quiet Place: Day One” a single woman with no children is the movie’s protagonist. Her name is Samira, nicknamed Sam (played by Nyong’o), and it’s revealed in the beginning of the movie that she has cancer and is living in a place called the Little Firs Hospice Center, somewhere not far from New York City’s Manhattan borough. She’s a sullen participant in a hospice support group with other hospice patients who are much older than she is. Sam has a service cat named Frodo (a black-and-white mixed breed), who becomes a big part of the story.

The support group is led by a friendly nurse named Reuben (played by Alex Wolff), who announces to the group that they are taking a trip to New York City’s Manhattan borough to see an entertainment performance. Although “A Quiet Place: Day One” takes place in New York City, the movie was actually filmed in England. There is excellent production design in the re-creations of New York City.

Sam is a loner who is very bitter about her medical diagnosis. She has to wear a patch near her pelvis for pain relief. Sam grew up in New York City but moved away and recently moved back. The one thing she is looking forward to in this trip to New York City is to go to a place called Patsy’s Pizzeria in the Harlem neighborhood, so she can get a slice of pizza.

It’s later revealed in the movie that Sam is a successful poet, and she was very close to her deceased father, who was a jazz pianist. Sam has no siblings, and her mother is not mentioned in the movie. Sam’s fixation on getting a slice of pizza at Patsy’s Pizzeria is fully explained later in the movie.

The medical support group takes the trip by bus to the performance theater in the Chinatown neighborhood, which is in the southern part of Manhattan, while Harlem is in the northern part of Manhattan. Sam is disappointed to see that the performance is a marionette show. She thinks this type of show is too childish for her tastes.

Sam and everyone else will have a lot more to worry about when the invasion starts. Before the invasion happens, there are signs that something unusual is going on. There are several military planes that are flying around as Sam and her support group make their way into Manhattan. There are also some military vehicles speeding on the streets.

The invasion begins without any real warning except some emergency sirens. In the ensuing chaos, there are several explosions from missiles and bombs (presumably the military trying to kill the aliens) and people dying in various ways, often because they are killed by the invading creatures. “A Quiet Place: Day One” does some cheating with the film editing, by having Sam lose consciousness (the screen fades to black), and she ends up in certain shelters with no explanation for how she got there. There’s also some dubious editing in how Frodo seems to magically appear out of nowhere in some scenes.

The first shelter where Sam wakes up is the theater where the marionette performance took place. It’s here that she meets Henri (played by Djimon Hounsou), a man who was also in “A Quiet Place Part II.” Very little was revealed about Henri in “A Quiet Place Part II,” and there is no new information about him in “A Quiet Place: Day One,” except that he is helpful to other people trying to survive this apocalypse. Henri, his wife Zena (played Eliane Umuhire), and their son Osahar (played Takunda Khumalo) attended the same marionette performance as Sam and her hospice group.

Sam (who has Frodo with her for most of the movie) also wakes up to find out that she and everyone else must be quiet in order to avoid being detected by the creatures. It’s never explained in the film how the survivors got this information so quickly. There’s a scene where Sam sees a woman listening to an emergency radio report at normal volume. The woman is wearing headphones but then she takes off the headphones while the muffled sounds of the radio report can be heard through the headphones. It contradicts the premise that sounds will attract the alien monsters. She was not in a soundproof room.

In another part of the movie, unseen authorities can be heard on a megaphones, loudly ordering evacuations and telling people to go to South Street Seaport, where emergency boats are waiting to take people to unnamed destinations. Somehow, the authorities have figured out that the creatures can’t swim in the large bodies of water. Where are the creatures during these loud announcements? Sometimes they’re seen, sometimes they’re not. It’s a big plot hole.

Meanwhile, Sam’s fight for survival is often solitary until she meets a British immigrant named Eric (played by Joseph Quinn), a law student who is also on his own in this apocalypse. Eric mentions that his parents live in Kent, England. Eric meets Sam after a harrowing scene where people panic during a mass evacuation. Sam gets separated from Frodo, who encounters Eric. Eric is so relieved to see this kind-looking cat, he follows the cat when Frodo find his way back to Sam, who is initially resistant to having frightened Eric tag along with her.

Frodo (who is played by two cats named Schnitzel and Nico) has a wonderfully expressive face and is a surprisingly quiet cat in situations where most cats would be howling or hissing in fear. “A Quiet Place: Day One” won’t get any awards for character styling. Frodo is quite possibly the most unrealistically cleanest cat you’ll ever see in an apocalypse movie where explosions have left people covered in dirt and dust. Although, to be fair, there’s a scene later in the movie where Frodo is underwater and emerges clean, even though Frodo wasn’t that dirty and unkempt in the first place.

The movie’s visual effects and sound design for the jump scares are top-notch. However, the real strength in “A Quiet Place: Day One” is showing how Sam copes with her ordeal—first on her own, and then later with Eric. Nyong’o convincingly shows a wide range of emotions as someone who is facing life and death because of cancer and because of this apocalypse. Quinn does a very good job in his role as Eric, even though there is less revealed about Eric than Sam in the movie.

“A Quiet Place: Day One” has a powerful and effective message about the importance of human connections and compassion during a crisis. The movie is unique for making the protagonist a cancer patient. However, “A Quiet Place: Day One” seems to deliberately hold back on giving a lot of information about the people and the alien creatures in the movie, in order to keep a certain amount of mystery in the franchise. On a bittersweet level, “A Quiet Place: Day One” is also a story about survival, the will to live, and how they are affected by fate or personal choices.

Paramount Pictures will release “A Quiet Place: Day One” in U.S. cinemas on June 28, 2024.

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