In John Krasinski’s brilliantly suspenseful thriller, a family must remain silent at all times to avoid the giant predators roaming their post-apocalyptic world
If ever a film had me mentally tiptoeing over a booby-trapped carpet of eggshells while silently gibbering with anxiety, it’s this brutal sci-fi suspense thriller, written by horror specialists Scott Beck and Bryan Woods and directed by John Krasinski, who developed the screenplay with them and stars – alongside Emily Blunt. It’s set in a postapocalyptic wasteland. But this isn’t a young adult drama, it’s a prematurely old adult drama, a world in which innocence, childhood and happiness have been blowtorched off the face of the Earth.
There has been some sort of ecological disaster or invasion and now all of humanity, or at any rate everyone in this indeterminate part of the United States, lives in fear of giant reptile predators who stalk the land. The thing is, they’re blind but have advanced hearing. So, as long as you can keep silent all the time, in a 24/7 hyper-alert state of anticipation, you’re all right. But making the slightest noise brings them out, doing everything but sniff the air, like a horrible mix of Ridley Scott’s Alien, Steven Spielberg’s T rex and Robert Helpmann’s Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Krasinski and Blunt play Lee and Evelyn, a couple who now run an efficient Trappist-survivalist smallholding in the countryside, while making regular forays into the devastate town for supplies. We get the time-honoured scenes in the ruined supermarket, and that weird frisson of seeing stuff that you could just take if you wanted, but who cares now that consumerist law and order has utterly broken down? One of their kids wants to take a toy model of the space shuttle Challenger (poignantly yearning for a rocket to take them all away from this ruined planet) but Lee fixes him with a bayonet gaze of disapproval, while grabbing this unexploded noise-bomb and silently removing the batteries. That thing’s too dangerous.
Their son, Marcus (Noah Jupe), and daughter, Megan (Millicent Simmonds), are well drilled in the new soundless, wordless discipline and the point is that Megan is hearing impaired, so the whole family has already had to learn sign language to communicate. Lee has even got his soldering iron out and tinkered with adapting a new hearing aid for her. It is Megan’s disability that has enabled the family to cope – an elegant narrative contrivance from Beck and Woods. Yet, as the story continues, there is a new challenge. Evelyn is pregnant, and now the adults must wonder how she is going to have the baby without modern anaesthetic and without making a sound. A world of horror is on the way.