“Who Are We If We Can’t Protect Them? We Must Protect Them…”
Utilising arguably the most basic and fundamental element of horror cinema since the inception of the genre at the turn of the twentieth century, John Krasinski (Detroit) stars, writes and directs A Quiet Place, a thrilling and genuinely unnerving apocalyptic creature feature which mixes survivalist adventure with threatening terror and one which is held together by a key and tightly held plot point regarding the use of silence and the deadly consequences that arise whenever the rules of such an element are broken. Transferring their relationship in the real world into the landscape of the film, Krasinski is joined by Emily Blunt (Sicario) as two grief stricken parents, Lee and Evelyn Abbott, who attempt to survive in the treacherous, ambiguous world that now homes vicious, unrelenting and seemingly indestructible alien creatures who hunt primarily by responding to sound, no matter how small the disturbance may be. Beginning with a gripping opening act which sees the Abbott family scour the dredges of a The Walking Dead inspired future wasteland for resources and goods, the ground-rules for the drama is delicately set, with silence the overarching soundtrack and communication limited to close-quartered whispers and sign language whilst movement too limited to bare foot expeditions and a handy stock of sound reducing sand.
Whilst Krasinski himself has declared a complete rejection at horror movies in the past, the co-written screenplay from himself, Bryan Woods and Scott Beck is undeniably inspired by classic examples of not only the genre of horror but classic monster thrillers too, and with an opening act concluding in a manner which bears similarities to Stephen King’s famous opening tragedy in his magnum opus It, the thrills and spills throughout A Quiet Place are indeed recognisable but still highly effective in to an alarming degree. With post apocalyptic landscapes a common theme in contemporary cinema with the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road and The Road two very different movies at either end of the spectrum in terms of what the genre can offer, the survivalist tendencies shown in A Quiet Place are never lingered upon in attempt to shove the notion of desolation completely in your face, with the narrative instead brilliantly glossing over such in a blasé fashion which makes the audience accept the surroundings in which our heroic family are based without getting solid answers on the cause or what the murderous monsters at the centre of the peril really are. With Noah Jupe (Wonder) and Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) as the Abbott children, the former’s deafness (something of which Simmonds has in real life) offers in itself a brooding sense of peril, with the soundtrack switching from the background noise of the wild to complete and utter silence whenever Simmonds is on-screen, something of which works particularly well later in the action when her character is somewhat unaware of the power of her unfortunate infliction.
With Blunt undeniably the standout performer of the piece, her own attempts to balance the preservation of her family with the upcoming arrival of a new life results in a standout set piece involving a wince-inducing injury and the worst period of child labour in the history of cinema. With Blunt originally suggesting to partner Krasinski that someone else should take the part, her decision to be involved continues her ability to convey superb performances in a wide range of differing genres ranging from comedy (The Devil Wears Prada) to action thrillers (Edge of Tomorrow, Sicario) and now creature feature horror. Clocking in at a healthy ninety minutes, the pacing of the movie is brilliantly measured, with a hearty, white-knuckle build-up leading to a concluding act which mixes Jurassic Park style set pieces with 28 Days Later inspired terror all happening at a lighting fast paced that come the final credits, you can’t help but feel an extra course would be lapped up more than generously. For a movie which relies on the element of silence and resorts to having dialogue reduced to an absolute minimum, A Quiet Place could be praised on its’ own for just being a superbly brave mainstream exercise, but with top-notch performances all around, a wondrously creepy premise and come the end, a strangely heartwarming familial tale, Krasinski’s movie is a resounding and genuinely unnerving success.
Overall Score: 9/10
“What Happened That Night In The Tunnel?”
Much like the unreliable UK train service in out current state of affairs, this review comes somewhat a little late to proceedings in contrast to our usual disciplined services, due in part to my reluctance at seeing the big screen adaptation of The Girl on the Train, the ridiculously popular novel published last year and written by author Paula Hawkins, a novel in which I came to thinking it was something completely different, a novel which was indeed gripping in places but ultimately felt like a jumped up Midsummer Murders with an added slice of spice in order to fit in with the literary era of a novel such as Fifty Shades of Grey. Although book reviews aren’t a speciality of Black Ribbon just yet, Tate Taylor’s cinematic adaptation was somewhat something of a mystery on the face of it. Coming to the movie being well aware of the plot, it could have been an utter bore, yet with a cast that boasts pedigree left, right and centre, The Girl on the Train isn’t exactly remarkable, it’s just straightforwardly solid, featuring a stand out performance from Emily Blunt and sticking so close to the source material of which had the inherent problems the film contracts onto the big screen.
Where the film succeeds is in the casting of Blunt in the lead role of Rachel, who takes to the challenge of giving her all to the max, swaying in a drunken mess throughout most of the movie, unaware of her actions and the consequences that are the cornerstone of the movies’ mystery, whilst The Magnificent Seven’s Haley Bennett also deserves a mention for the conflicted Megan Hipwell. Aside from the movies’ two leading ladies, The Girl on the Train features a rafter of one-dimensional male characters, with Luke Evans and Justin Theroux being portrayed as sex/power hungry misogynist pigs, a cold portrayal of humanity in a film similarly cold and lifeless without much dramatic effect to keep it entertaining. Aside from characterisation, The Girl on the Train suffers from having the same problem as the novel; it’s just not that groundbreaking. Sure, as a two-part ITV drama it may have succeeded, yet on the big screen, Tate Taylor’s latest isn’t anything apart from good and for a film with such a cast list, I expected more.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Welcome To Juarez…”
Back in early January when Denis Villeneuve’s mind-warping thriller Enemy was released, it began a spur of excitement towards a director who although had already began to make waves to a wider audience with Prisoners, was quietly going under the radar making enthralling and, against the norm of the money-making syndicate that is Hollywood in the 21st century, intelligent works of art. If Enemy left me with a sense of sheer fright at the sight of its’ ever so creepy final scene, then Villeneuve’s latest Sicario takes it up a notch, and then some, with Villeneuve not in any way being tempted to resort to the crash-bang-wallop of recent thrillers deriving from the US, which although may result in a stack load of money, usually ends up being particularly forgettable piles of tripe in the long run, something of which cannot be said of Sicario, a film so enriched in tension and threat that if it were not for it being advertised as being a stone-cold thriller, could easily be regarded as a first-class horror, designed to tickle the senses from head to toe.
When a kidnapping raid in Chandler, Arizona goes horrendously wrong, FBI Agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow) is quickly tasked with the shady, if enigmatic, Department of Defense adviser Matt Graver (Josh Brolin, No Country For Old Men, Everest) in an attempt to dismantle the enraging cartel activity behind the raid’s failure, During her venture into the ambiguous nature of her involvement with Graver, Macer comes into contact with his partner, Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro, Traffic, Sin City) a silent and secretive agent who is reluctant to share his involvement in the operation, Delving deeper and deeper into the heart of gangland territory, Kate begins to suspect that all is not what it seems with her life becoming more and more in danger the deeper she treads into the real objectives of both Graver and Gillick. Sound gripping? And oh boy is it, with not one, but three set pieces in particular within Sicario actually managing to make my heart beat at a higher rate than normal, something of which hasn’t occurred since maybe Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, a dark and mysterious thriller/horror that has many positive links with Villeneuve’s latest, with both featuring an engrossing story that forgets the spoon-fed nature of a mass audience and instead focuses on natures both ambiguous and unknown.
The three set pieces? A congested motorway. A pitch black tunnel. A last supper. All scenes in which silence is played upon to the extreme and tension is rammed up to the max, helped significantly by top-of-their-game acting from the three main leads in the form of Blunt, Del Toro, and Brolin, all of whom should regard Sicario as a true statement of their own individual acting pedigree with Blunt’s portrayal as the ambitious and rather curious Macer a true indication of her diverse acting ability (Into The Woods, The Devil Wears Prada). Stars of the show however belong to both Del Toro as the incredibly stone-cold Gillick, his best role in years, and cinematographer Roger Deakins, the Devon-born artist who even though after doing brilliant work on The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, and basically the entire Coen Brothers back catalogue, has still failed to win an Oscar, may finally get his chance to proclaim supremacy with his latest offering. Take it from me, Sicario looks beautiful with Deakins’ work effectively adhering to and empowering the dark and deadly nature of the film’s atmosphere resulting in a film that isn’t just your everyday thriller, its’ a film laced with horror tropes from start to finish and ultimately results in one leaving the cinema both shaking in fear and gawping in amazement, a solid thumbs up in anyone’s opinion.
Overall Score: 9/10
If you’ve been to the cinema recently, you’ve most likely been barraged with Edge of Tomorrow trailers and advertisements. Normally I would go off them gradually, although with this, I felt compelled to go see it. The trailer looked better after I saw it a few times and with Tom Cruise’s success in Oblivion and many other Sci-fi movies, I knew it would be a good watch.
In recent months we have seen comets flying over the sky of Russia and many other places on the news. Using the footage, Edge of Tomorrow has built upon the idea that they harbour life. However, this life is a little less microscopic and a little more giant, rip your face off and swing you round like a piñata big. Eventually the spread of these monsters has led to the European mainland becoming alien HQ. Much like the D-Day landing in WW2, England send troops over to the beaches of Normandy to push a seemingly weak army back into the stone age. Not all goes to plan and our protagonist –Cage, ends up dead, only to repeat the day continuously until he can find a way to end this war and the slaughter of the humans for good. The story reeks of Nolan’s signature psychological games and most likely takes reference from him. With the increasingly bad K-D ratio of Cage rising steadily, he seeks help from the poster girl of this war. The Iron Bitch/Rita soon is able to sympathise with him as she has experienced the same. After a particularly jarring training scene we learn that there is a master key that if destroyed, will kill these aliens for good and they embark on a giant adventure to blow it the hell up. Without releasing a lot of information and ruining it, the story is surprisingly solid. It’s engaging and the continual death toll of Cage and the repeat beatings he gets forces the same emotions of stress and anxiety that he feels. Just slightly less damaging and without the months lost…
Apart from the movies solid story, it cannot stand on that alone. After all, it is a sci-fi. Visually the movie looks wonderful. Although I can see many of the scenes being filmed on green screens, the general flow of everything going on made it bearable. Everything looked great but I do have to question the designers of those creatures. They are nightmarishly scary. If I was ever to dream something like that up, I would get myself checked. They looked amazing and did instil fear with the rapid movement and screeching. Now with the barrage of deaths, a personal favourite was acid being dropped on Cage which was brutal to watch but I may have giggled a little bit. Fighting with non-existent creatures isn’t very easy so when they are being flung about, its animated brilliantly.
There isn’t really not much more for me to say. Yeah sure, the acting wasn’t the best but what can you expect. It’s Tom Cruise in a Sci-fi movie. We come for fun action scenes where humanity fights against an alien terror and kicks some ass with it wrapped up nicely at the end. The fact that the story was good (perhaps generic in the genre) and looked great made at all the better. In the sci-fi genre, Edge of Tomorrow deserves 8/10. It’s a full on fun movie with plenty of twists and turns that keep you guessing! Go see it! Seeing it’s Wednesday, Orange Wednesday it!