Compared to most other movies in theaters, "A Quiet Place" is an amazing piece of filmmaking. It's incredibly well shot, acted, and edited; it explores its horror concept with a keen sense of pacing and tension; the sound design and score are excellent. Few films are privileged enough to achieve all of these feats at once—and yet, when I had finished "A Quiet Place," I couldn't help thinking to myself that it was… good. Not great. Not bad. Just good.
For me, missteps in worldbuilding blunted my enjoyment of the film. The movie still makes a lot of smart choices in its broader picture—enough that critics and audiences alike have raved about it—but the details don't add up. Fans of the film usually chalk these up to "nitpicks that the film explains when you're paying attention," but that's not strictly true. Here are three details that set up inconsistencies and broke my immersion in the film.
1. It is set in present day.
The gravestone of a child who dies at the beginning of the film is marked 2016-2020, implying that we are to picture the monster invasion / insurgence in the modern world. This makes absolutely no sense. Sure, the monsters are intimidating, but they wouldn't stand a chance against humankind's modern technology and superior numbers. They're hunter-gatherers for crying out loud! A hoard of fanged ears on stilts, heavily armored or not, could not possibly destroy the infrastructure of all civilization in two years. Where are the bunkers? Where are the weapons? Where is the internet? Which brings us to the second problem…
2. The worldwide scale.
Newspaper headlines indicate that the monsters have appeared all over the world. One claims "HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS" dead in Shanghai (which, given the city's population of 24.8 million, isn't the worst it could be), while another cartoonishly announces "U.S. MILITARY DEFEATED." There are also headlines on power grids going down and financial systems collapsing, which begs the question—how were the printing presses still in operation?
The sweeping exposition damages the film's impact in two ways: it undermines the believability of the monsters' scale and it removes any mystery surrounding the monsters that would make them naturally more scary. "Signs" has a very similar perspective of a worldwide invasion experienced by a family on a farm, but its decision not to show the alien until the end of the film heightens suspense immensely. Both movies do have one annoyance in common, though…
3. The monster's weakness.
In "Signs," the weakness is water. In "A Quiet Place," it's a high-pitched noise. Thus, as with "Signs," I'm inclined to ask how a planet of several billion people had not already discovered and exploited this weakness. How is a small mid-western corn farm the first to crack the code? Ultimately, this just feels more like a writer's contrivance than anything that would organically rise from the real world. And that's the problem: writer's contrivances are the backdrop for this otherwise well-executed film. The characters live in a contrived world and do contrived things, which left me less able to relate to or care about them.
In any case, I hope they make a sequel about Emily Blunt delivering the secret of the monster's weakness to the invincible printing presses in New York.