‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ is a poignant prequel

As the din of explosions, catchy soundtracks and empowering monologues continue to define the big screen ‘A Quiet Place’ dials everything down to a whisper.

Set in a world where a race of blind but super-hearing aliens hunt humans, the first two films offered muted apocalyptic horror through the experience of the Abbot family surviving in rural, upstate New York. In ‘A Quiet Place; Day One’ (2024), the horror goes back to the beginning.

Set in New York City and starring Lupita Nyong’o and Joseph Quinn, the prequel gives audiences an idea of how vulnerable New Yorkers may be to super hearing aliens as an intertitle explains that the city’s famous buzz is approximately 90 decibels – equal to the sound of a constant scream.

Swapping the intimacy the Abbot family for the unpredictability of strangers, ‘Day One’ introduces Sam (Nyong’o), a terminally ill poet on a day out from hospice with her cat Frodo. Reluctant to go on the puppet theatre excursion, Sam is enticed by a nurse named Reuben (Alex Wolff) who promises they can go for pizza afterwards.

In the city, chaos soon breaks loose as what look like meteors streak across the sky. Minutes later, New York is engulfed in smoke, ash and debris from impact, and the newly landed aliens begin killing everyone within earshot.

At this point, ‘Day One’, written and directed by Michael Sarnoski, plays like many apocalyptic films you’ve seen before. People run, they scream, they’re flung off screen or plucked up by a seemingly invisible force as life as they know it implodes beyond recognition.

Dusty scenes reminiscent of 9/11 are particularly harrowing and Nyong’o, wide-eyed and terrified, is mesmerising as the camera begins to zoom in on faces and people who must remain quiet to survive.

While ‘A Quiet Place’s’ concept was fascinating in the forest, in a big city, the fear of making a sound is even greater as unstable and collapsed buildings, noisy generators and strangers losing their mind, threaten to summon the beasts.

In the upheaval, Sam is our emotional centre. Already dying from cancer and determined to acquire the pizza she was promised in tribute to a tradition she had with her jazz pianist father, Sam turns away from ideas of rescue and heads towards Harlem.

On the way she encounters a British law student named Eric (Quinn) who follows her around like a stray cat until they forge a sweet alliance. As the world ends, they visit her old apartment, read poetry, run from aliens and head towards Patsy’s, the pizza place Sam’s dad used to take her after his gigs.

While the extent of Sam’s illness and ability is erratic, the duo goes from strangers to dearest friends in the span of a few days as we watch them whisper, stare and try not scream or sneeze.

In this, Nyong’o and Quinn are phenomenal and imbue the film with a tenderness that offsets the horror in poignant and profound ways.

What is life under siege when you’re terminally ill? How can we as humans find beauty, purpose and a satisfying end when death is all around and imminent? How deep is the kindness of strangers in survival mode?

‘Day One’ asks us to ponder this and more and, based on Nyong’o and Quinn’s performances alone, is worth making some noise about.

Want to win a movie ticket to see ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ (2024) or a movie of your choice at Ster-Kinekor? Simply answer the following question: What sense is really developed in the invading aliens? Email your name, cell phone number and answer to weekender@namibian.com.na with the subject line MOVIE. The winner of the last competition is Irene Muinjo.

– martha@namibian.com.na; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram; marthamukaiwa.com

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