Film reviews and more since 2009

A Quiet Place: Day One (2024) review

Dir. Michael Sarnoski

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★★

If you haven’t seen A Quiet Place: Day One, let me quell one of your presumptive fears: the sweet little kitty lives. The most unrealistic aspect in the whole movie is how the cat, whose name is Frodo (played by two cats, Nico and Schnitzel), survives about a dozen situations in which he wouldn’t, just to reemerge completely unharmed and unamused. And cute too. Kudos to writer/director Michael Sarnoski for remaining committed to doing right by man’s (real) best friend.

As far as needless prequels are concerned, Day One is an effective thriller made engrossing because of the tender treatment it gives its characters. It might not be on the level of Furiosa (not a standard to which to hold it, mind you), but it’s no Munsters either. It doesn’t get to the reason why these blind monsters decided to wage an attack on our world; however, if you think about it, such a move is downright impossible once they crash-land onto Earth. Try hosting a press conference or a breaking news report and these beasts will shut you down faster than a town event sans a city-authorized permit.

Day One revolves around Sam (Lupita Nyong’o), a cancer patient living out her final days in hospice, who embarks on a rare trip to Manhattan with her support group, shepherded by a bearded Alex Wolff (who also starred in Sarnoski’s riveting drama Pig). They attend a marionette show, which Sam could take or leave; she really wants pizza from a specific joint, knowing it’ll likely be the last meal she eats and truly enjoys. In her arms is the aforementioned Frodo, a real-find in the realm of movie cats.

Following the show, New York City — which we’re informed regularly emits about 90 decibels of noise, the equivalent of a constant scream — is attacked and ravaged by the monsters with which we’ve grown familiar. They hunt by sound, and even so much as an unwise footstep can result in a person’s death. Once the monsters make their presence known, the already-dying Sam launches into survival mode, although she’s slower and less physically able than nearly everyone around her. She eventually finds a companion in Eric (Joseph Quinn, Stranger Things), a panic-stricken law school student. Also seen is Henri (Djimon Hounsou), the character from A Quiet Place Part II, who we learn discovered the crucial weakness of the monsters early on and went on to help his family and others immediately.

A Quiet Place: Day One was originally to be directed by Jeff Nichols before he left the project over creative differences. Perhaps one of them was the fact that this story at times feels too lean and somewhat underdeveloped despite its engaging lead performance. Nichols’ The Bikeriders, released last weekend, further explored his desires for medium-length shots and intimate interpersonal banter that allows for characters to breathe. Day One sometimes moves too quickly to linger on what should be important moments, such as when Henri has to deal with a man having a noisy panic attack in a matter of split-seconds before him and everyone in the vicinity are killed.

Thankfully, Michael Sarnoski is a young and talented filmmaker, whose debut, Pig, was one of the best films I watched in 2021. Day One is such a contrast from his previous film, which was defined by following a hermetic Nicolas Cage wandering through a forest with his faithful foraging pig. Sarnoski trades the woods for the bustling streets of NYC (technically a London soundstage, but it mostly looks convincing enough), and his nuances as a filmmaker are still communicated. One of this prequel’s standout sequences comes right after the attack as Sam and others are wading through a newly decimated concrete jungle. The resulting dust and debris makes spatial awareness impossible to decipher. That disorientation is passed onto the audience in back-to-back harrowing scenes.

It also helps when you have Lupita Nyong’o front-and-center, a performer who is so gifted with expressive eyes and reactive expressions that she doesn’t need dialog in order to be arresting. Nyong’o is so good at conveying a lot of hurt, sadness, and despair in a character who can’t audibly discuss her motives nor what she’s feeling. A Quiet Place: Day One might not give us the “whys” of the monsters and their invasion, yet it’s buoyed by the sum of its talented cast and crew, who steer it far away from the realm of vapid prequels.

NOTE: A Quiet Place: Day One is now playing exclusively in theaters.

My review of A Quiet Place
My review of A Quiet Place Part II

Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff, Djimon Hounsou, and Eliane Umuhire. Directed by: Michael Sarnoski.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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