A star rating of 4 out of 5.

A Quiet Place: Day One opens with a soundscape depicting the bustling din of a typical day in New York City. Over the hubbub, on-screen text informs us that the Big Apple emits an average of 90 decibels at any one moment in time. This is not a place, in other words, well suited to an invasion of vicious alien creatures that pounce on their defenceless enemies at the merest hint of sound.


But alas, that’s exactly what awaits. The third film in John Krasinski’s hugely successful horror series takes us right back to the first day of that terrifying invasion, as the city is plunged into chaos without warning and hordes of people are brutally dispatched by the bloodthirsty extra-terrestrials.

With the exception of a small but important role for Djimon Hounsou’s previously nameless character from Part 2, the characters from the first two films are entirely absent. Instead, the story revolves around two new figures played by Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o and Stranger Things breakout Joseph Quinn, who star as a pair previously unfamiliar to each other who must quickly adapt to their enormously altered way of life.

Given it unfolds against one of the world’s vastest metropolises, you might expect everything here to be on a grander scale than the previous films – with the action dialled up to 11 and an epic narrative to match.

But although there are moments of mega carnage as the aliens mercilessly rampage their way through the city, at its heart this is actually a very straightforward, intimate and... well... quiet affair – an understated short-story set within the Quiet Place world.

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Lupita Nyong'o in A Quiet Place: Day One.
Lupita Nyong'o in A Quiet Place: Day One. Paramount Pictures/ YouTube.

Essentially a two-hander, it chiefly concerns Sam (Nyong’o), a woman we are introduced to prior to the onset of the invasion. She is a poet undergoing treatment for advanced cancer, and who is consequently better emotionally equipped than most to deal with the spectre of imminent death.

While most New Yorkers are desperate to secure survival by any means, Sam's priority is rather different: she wants to enjoy one last pizza before she departs. And so she sets off on this modest quest with her beloved (and scene-stealing) cat Frodo, eventually encountering English expat Eric (Quinn) along the way. Quickly, the pair strike up a friendship of sorts – and he is soon aiding her in procuring the medicines she needs.

Where the first two films explored how an existing family unit responded to the invasion, the interesting aspect here is watching a new bond form against the apocalyptic backdrop. The dynamic is poignantly handled by director Michael Sarnoski (Pig) and excellently acted by the two leads – whose communication mostly takes the form of whispers and non-verbal queues given the conditions dictated by the aliens' looming presence.

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Day One also feels different tonally to the previous films. While those were hardly laugh-a-minute affairs, the mood here is more sombre still, concerned not just with survival but with deeper themes of mortality and finding meaning and connection amid the destruction. This allows the film to go to some rather moving places as we learn more about Sam's past – and why she is so determined to get that final pizza – while it eventually builds to a touching pay-off in the final moments.

As far as the action goes, there are times where Sarnoski uses the distinctive geography of New York City well – most notably a killer sequence that sees our protagonists chased into the subway system – and there is plenty of the franchise's trademark tension on show (especially whenever Frodo the cat is on screen). But for the most part, the action plays second-fiddle to the human story between Eric and Sam, which is what marks it out as an interesting diversion from the other films.

Perhaps there is a niggling feeling that it all seems a little slight – that the characters could have been fleshed out further and their adventures expanded into something a little more grand and dynamic. But as it is, this is a rewarding way to continue the series in a slightly different key to what has come before, without losing too much of what made those earlier efforts successful.

A Quiet Place: Day One is showing in UK cinemas from Thursday 27th June 2024.


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