Updated: Jan 14, 2020
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOT
Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) reacts to her youngest son playing with a Space Shuttle toy with a noisemaker. Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) runs to try to save their son before the alien monster snatches him.
“A QUIET PLACE”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2018; PG-13 for terror and some bloody images; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNow (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “Creating the Quiet” featurette
WITH ONLY two to three minutes of dialogue – “A Quiet Place” is not your typical edge-of-your-seat thriller. “It’s crazy because it works,” says co-producer Brad Fuller during the 15-minute “Creating the Quiet” featurette.
Critics and moviegoers loved it. Worldwide box office topped $330 million, originating from a modest $17 million production budget.
Orchestrating the brisk suspense (running around 90 minutes) was the inexperienced, but confident director John Krasinski, best known for his role as Jim Halpert on NBC’s “The Office.” He had only directed one other film, “The Hollars” (2016), to mixed reviews. He told producers he would adapt the already good script by college buddies Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. Krasinski would also play Lee Abbott, father of three children, one of whom is killed during a shocking attack.
(1&2) The streets of Little Falls, New York are empty since the arrival of the alien monsters. (3) The Abbott family walk barefoot on paths of sand to keep quiet. (4) The little guy didn't understand the repercussions of the sound from the Space Shuttle toy.
Alien monsters with razor-sharp teeth have overtaken the globe. They are totally blind, so they hunt their prey thanks to giant hypersensitive ears, with which they can pick up the smallest sound.
Lee’s wife Evelyn, played by Krasinski’s real wife Emily Blunt, is pregnant with their fourth child. The tension as Evelyn tries to suppress every shout during the baby’s birth is almost unbearable. But once he’s born, what to do about his crying?
Sign language has become the Abbotts’ mode of communication, as subtitles dot the screen. Their teenage daughter Regan, wonderfully played by Millicent Simmonds, is deaf. Simmonds, herself, is hearing impaired. Noah Jupe plays the younger brother Marcus. Family members walk barefoot everywhere, along sand paths and painted footpaths in the house, to avoid the noisy floorboards.
(1) Fine detail from the 4K imagery even though the 35mm film was mastered in 2K. Teenage daughter Regan falls asleep on the sand path. (2) Lee Abbott sends out S.O.S. messages via the shortwave radio at his command center. (3&4) Prayer before dinner.
The three featurettes highlight the production, filmed in upstate New York. Co-producer Andrew Form talks at length about the script, which was only 67 pages; typical Hollywood scripts run between 90 to 120. Of Krasinski’s adaptation, which included maps and graphics of the Abbott farm, Form says, it “had the foundation for an unbelievable story … it’s in his DNA.”
Krasinski and Blunt had just had their second daughter in three years when he wrote the screenplay. “I was totally terrified, nervous,” he says, “trying to keep our daughter safe and keep our daughter alive, so I thought, why not put all those ideas into the script?”
Later, he called the producers to say he’d found a perfect place for the Abbott farm, outside a small town between Albany and Syracuse. The location only consisted of a red barn and a big white farmhouse, separated by a highway with cars traveling 50 to 60 mph. Local authorities closed the road for nearly two months during filming, as production spanned the highway. Months before the cameras started rolling corn was planted to ensure it would be eight feet tall in time for the shoot.
(1) Lee and Evelyn share a dance with Neil Young's "Harvest Moon." (2) Regan wants to go with her dad and brother to gather fish from a nearby stream. (3) The HDR/Dolby Vision is superb with controlled midtones and wonderful rim lighting. (4) The waterfall is so loud Marcus can shout and the alien monsters can't hear him.
The most interesting back-story surrounds how Blunt got the role of Evelyn Abbott. For months, as Krasinski revised his script, he pitched her plot points. At the same time, notes Krasinski, Blunt began assembling a list of actresses she thought would be good for the part. When he was flew to Hollywood for the final pitch to the president of Paramount, Blunt was on the same flight. She read the script and afterwards, “She turned toward me and looked sick," recalls Krasinski, “You can’t let anyone else do this movie.”
The couple’s performance transcends the usual husband-wife onscreen relationship with heartfelt believable moments. “I always knew she was smart and creative and had good ideas. I got to experience my wife in a whole different way,” says Krasinski. Blunt adds, “We were scared, we were nervous to work together. I thought maybe we’d kill each other. But actually, it was kind of amazing. I’ve always felt valued as his wife and mother of his kids, but I felt so valued creatively. We were so on the same page.”
Krasinski and Danish cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen (“Far from the Madding Crowd”) decided to capture “A Quiet Place” on traditional 35mm film (2.39:1 aspect ratio), even though more than half of it would be filmed at night. Three different film stocks were used, giving the thriller a gritty and organic feel with its natural film grain.
(1) The red warning light has been turned on at the Abbott farm. (2) The alien monster is closing in on Evelyn. (3) Evelyn's water has broken - it's time for the baby, while she hides from the alien.
Some confusion surrounded its original digital intermediate mastering resolution. For months on IMDb.com it was listed with 4K mastering, then two weeks ago it was lowered to 2K. Our observations from the 4K disc revealed 2K mastering was applied and upconverted for this presentation. The giveaway was the lost clarity from distant objects in the wide shots, with more than half of the 35mm resolution tossed. On smaller setups, it’s less obvious. Still, it’s a shame since it’s beautifully photographed and toned with a warm color palette by Bruus Christensen. The HDR/Dolby Vision toning is superb with deep-deep blacks during the night scenes and brilliant highlights as the sunlight streams through the forest, as well as the red glow from a series of warning lights positioned throughout the farm.
The Dolby Atmos soundtrack (4K & Blu-ray), with its creative sound design, is bound to be nominated for an Oscar. The height speakers are extremely active from start to finish. “There was real power in the room to not speak,” says Krasinski. “We started to hear the sounds of the barn and the forest. They became alive on their own.” To get inside the mind of Regan they removed all sound except for a super high pitch, produced by her hearing aid, whenever the monsters were within striking distance.
A limited musical score, by horror/sci fi expert Marco Beltrami is present at the right spots, and enhanced with a sprinkle of Neil Young via iPhone headphones.
During the featurette, “The Sound of Darkness,” the audio team suggests you turn off the dishwasher, or any other noise in the room where the film is viewed, to get the complete effects of the sound design.
“A Quiet Place” may be the best suspense thriller to hit 4K, since its launch nearly 2 1/2 years ago, and a perfect addition to your collection.
― Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer