Some movies are good because they achieve exactly what they set out to do, some movies surprise because they rise above their own genre estimations, and others are just rock solid all-around because everything happened to align in just the right way at just the right time. I would love to say A Quiet Place: Day One falls into that last category or even into the second which is where the two previous films in this franchise nicely settle, but director Michael Sarnoski - the latest filmmaker to be promoted directly from small indie to giant blockbuster - has crafted a film that, despite maybe having more ambition, ultimately scrapes by on achieving its main objective. 

Odds are, much of this isn't the fault of Sarnoski as this franchise studio film crafted at the hands of a fresh-off-the-circuit filmmaker reeks of boardroom tinkering in even the slightest of ways. The combination of insert shots interrupting what are otherwise more precise sequences, the sheer number of focus pulls seemingly used to guarantee easier transitions in editing, and the shoddier special effects used to fill out the frame whenever the shot goes too wide (this was shot entirely on a backlot set in London, not New York City) not only signal a certain kind of approach but an apprehension about whether or not this was the right move with the right franchise. Whether true or not, this kind of mentality ultimately resonates in the production quality of the film - and deflated my excitement for what this chapter might offer when as much became apparent - yet the script still manages enough individual moments of creativity and tension to entertain if not necessarily captivate.

A key detail about Lupita Nyong'o's character, Samira, has been left out of the marketing - at least as far as the trailers I saw, anyway - but makes for a nice thematic thesis that sets the films arc on an engaging course. Is life worth fighting for when death is already on your doorstep? We see Samira process this question throughout much of the film, especially after the initial shock and inherent survival instincts have kicked in and worn off. Having never been to New York City I don't know how good the pizza in Harlem is, but aside from the fact it must be pretty damn delicious this idea of Nyong'o's character looking not exactly for a way to survive but more to for a way to find peace in death rather than succumbing to the chaos of this invasion is a great wrinkle in Sarnoski's screenplay. The introduction of Joseph Quinn's Eric (and what an entrance it is) as this isolated individual with an understood and appropriate amount of angst and worry is very specific as well. Samira and Eric are on a similar journey but at opposite ends. Theirs is not quite a star-crossed dynamic, but one that is understandably ill-fated while both realizing how they can help one another; the catharsis they provide each other grants the audience enough to invest in thus allowing us to overlook the less stimulating aspects of the experience. 

Photo by Gareth Gatrell/Gareth Gatrell - © 2023 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

I may never understand why a species who can't survive in large bodies of water decided to land on a planet where 71% of the surface is covered in it, how Frodo the cat was anything but a liability, or why that marionette show rocked as hard as it did but I do know that I dig a fifteen-minute title card drop, that Day One again emphasizes how crucial an element of filmmaking sound design is despite it feeling like a given in most movies, as well as how intentional the setting is (New York gives off an average of 90 decibels, which is equivalent to the sound of a constant scream). Does Sarnoski do much to expand the context of the invasion or broaden the mythology? Not really, but this wasn't bothersome given remaining within the smaller world of the central characters felt like a very intentional choice and the concept of trying to stay quiet in the Big Apple is enticing enough. That said, the film suffers because it skims past the integration of these albeit interesting characters into this new world they're all of a sudden forced to face. Rather than utilizing those interior challenges to aid in their navigation of the invasion, the invasion almost solely pushes them toward accepting their destiny. Ironically, the necessary balance between the two might have been more present without the noise of that tinkering boardroom. 

Also, was anyone else going through A Quiet Place Part II the next day to try and find the extra they based Quinn's character on?

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