A Quiet Place: Day One Review – The First of Us

According to the poster and the press releases, the stars of A Quiet Place: Day One are Lupita Nyong’o and Joseph Quinn. In actuality, the true leads are Nico and Schnitzel, the pair of cats who play Frodo, the faithful feline sidekick to the main two humans. The aptly named pet, who effectively trudges through the Mordor-like landscape of alien-ravaged New York, is the most amazingly chill kitty ever, somehow staying in the arms of owner Samira (Nyong’o) even while large monsters tear other humans to pieces mere feet away. Unrealistic, you say? Consider that the entire film crew had to get Nico and/or Schnitzel to do be that relaxed for real, because cats do not want to obey commands most of the time. They’re only capable of method acting.

Joseph Quinn as “Eric” and Lupita Nyong’o as “Samira” in A Quiet Place: Day One from Paramount Pictures.

Frodo survives, by the way. That seems like an excusable spoiler. How this cat is smart enough not to meow around the sound-sensitive attackers for the entire movie may remain a mystery. Perhaps cats are our secret alien overlords after all. Or deities, as the ancient Egyptians had it. Regardless, movies as a whole have been biased in favor of dog people since forever, so Frodo, like Captain Marvel’s Goose, is a worthy step in balancing the pet scales.

Pizza Cat

Frodo is the official support animal for Samira, who has outlived the predictions her cancer doctors have made, but probably won’t for much longer. She’s in hospice care, and hates it, having little in common with all the old white guys with dementia. So when a bus trip to the city to see a show happens to coincide with an alien apocalypse, well, she just wants to find some good-quality NYC pizza before she finally collapses for good. Hell, wouldn’t you?

Lupita Nyong’o as “Samira” in A Quiet Place: Day One from Paramount Pictures.

Along the way, she meets Eric (Quinn), who’s extra-extra scared by everything because he’s English, apparently. Samira doesn’t really want this dork on her tail, but she’s no jerk, so she allows him to come along for the ‘za. Thankfully, Frodo is more okay with strange, wet newcomers than most everyone else’s cat would be. Though he has a few panic attacks along the way, Eric does prove to be a better, stronger man than he initially seems. It’s a nice contrast from Quinn’s star-making role as Eddie in Stranger Things, displaying his range, just in case he has any trouble getting work after signing on for the Human Torch role in as many movies as Marvel demands.

Writer-director Michael Sarnoski’s Pig defied expectations of what a Nicolas Cage revenge movie could be, but with A Quiet Place: Day One, he’s more than happy to deliver on expectations of what a larger canvas Quiet Place story can be. The invasion itself invokes memories of 9-11 TV broadcasts, while the aftermath, as seen from a bird’s eye view, shows the creatures swarming the city like bugs on a corpse. Samira’s adventure plays out like a survival horror game, with many mini-missions on the way to her mozzarella-topped goal.

It’s Not TV; It’s AQP

Creatures crash out of skyscrapers like the walkers in The Walking Dead: Dead City, and tense moments of evading echolocation monsters will surely remind The Last of Us viewers (and gamers) of that show. Sarnoski’s playing with a bigger budget, however, and can corral large crowds of extras, huge empty buildings, and all the CGI creatures he needs. Keeping the point-of-view of Samira and Eric keeps the story focused, but we never feel that they can’t go out on main street because the producers can’t pay for the location.

Lupita Nyong’o as “Samira” and Joseph Quinn as “Eric” in A Quiet Place: Day One from Paramount Pictures.

As for the characters, we only get as much backstory as is prudent to tell. This is a world in which, for the most part, they are not allowed to talk, so there aren’t any long exposition dumps. We learn enough from small snatches of dialogue and the way the characters react to danger; as with every entry in this franchise so far, a premise that seems geared to an inordinate amount of whispering instead keeps everyone focused on saying more with their faces than mouths. As we know from Us and many other movies, Nyong’o is great at that.

Is There Mushroom for Hope?

It’s as if this movie provides the missing parts of The Last of Us, so far. For a TV series based on a game about escaping from fungus zombies, that one did a whole lot of character stuff and relatively little mushroomhead time. A Quiet Place: Day One, on the other hand, is purely focused on the tiptoe monster evasion aspects, with little time for love, which makes it a thrilling entertainment but perhaps less memorable overall.

Lupita Nyong’o as “Samira” and Djimon Hounsou as “Henri” in A Quiet Place: Day One from Paramount Pictures.

If the movie’s truly about anything, it’s a common theme that’s been cropping up in COVID-era entertainments: no matter how bleak things look, keep going and find the joy. Yes, even if you have terminal cancer during an alien occupation, chug that last drink, listen to that last song…and then be prepared to keep going even if that’s not the real end. In the lead-up to a genuinely frightening election season, that feels like advice worth reiterating. If Frodo the cat can restrain himself from clawing the crap out of the person holding him every time a loud noise goes down, you can too. So to speak.

Grade: 3.5/5

A Quiet Place: Day One opens in theaters June 28.