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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: A Quiet Place

“Chappaquiddick” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Hollywood is not known for taking big budget risks on small-scope, minimalist ideas. This fact alone makes it a miracle that “A Quiet Place” was even made.

To be sure, it helps that John Krasinski, most famous for starring in “The Office” on television, but making a name for himself in non-comedic roles since, is heavily involved. Not only does Krasinksi star in “A Quiet Place,” he also directs, co-wrote the screenplay, and has an executive producer credit. I don’t know the development history of this movie, but my guess is that it has been a pet project and labor of love for Krasinski for a long time, and he finally has the clout in Hollywood to see his vision come alive. That’s the way the story usually goes. Still, it is surprising that this was a major studio release and they didn’t instead put the entire budget for this movie toward an extra five seconds of digital effects for the latest pre-sequel reboot buddy cop superhero alien movie. Good on Paramount – I’m glad they took the chance.

The premise is just as minimalist as the cast. The Abbott family, father Lee (Krasinski), mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), and children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward) all live on a secluded farm in upstate New York. After scrounging for medical supplies in an abandoned small town that looks like a leftover set from “The Walking Dead,” tragedy strikes in a way that shows that evil creatures with super-sensitive hearing mean business. The creatures are out there, waiting to hear the slightest sound, then pounce and vanish. They’ve presumably taken over the world, and aside from an old man in the woods (Leon Russom) who has one scene, the creatures are the only other living beings we see aside from the Abbotts. Well, there are some raccoons, but they don’t last long.

The movie skips ahead several months after the tragedy. We see that Evelyn is pregnant. The logistics of finding a secluded, sound-proof space for love-making is not explicitly detailed, though the movie begs the question. However, I think an underground bunker we see later provides the answer. Indeed, one of the fascinating aspects of “A Quiet Place” is the logistics of living in a world where the slightest sound cannot be made for fear of savage creatures coming to kill you. The family walks around barefoot; dry, fallen leaves must be avoided; board game dice are rolled on a blanket; and most ingeniously, large lettuce leaves are used instead of porcelain plates. There is no clinking of glasses or silverware at this dinner table.

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The monsters in this movie are straight out of an unsettling nightmare. They’re about ten feet tall, wiry, and have long arms with pincers. The head reminds me a bit of Venom from “Spider-Man,” with the exception that the skull opens up in various places to reveal that they are literally almost all ears. Special credit goes to Industrial Light and Magic for creating a one of a kind terrifying movie monster.

“A Quiet Place” may play like a truly silent movie (spoken dialogue is only in two scenes), but it’s not all sitting around and being quiet for the Abbott family. Noises do mistakenly get made on occasion, leading to well-directed sequences of dread and suspense. If Krasinski proves one thing with “A Quiet Place,” it’s that not only does he have an eye for thrilling direction, he has an ear for it too. Buy it.

Also New This Week

Chappaquiddick

Ted Kennedy is an a-hole. I thought that when I saw him on television as a kid, I thought that even more after I first heard about the car accident dramatized in “Chappaquiddick” when I was a teenager, and I think that even more now that I’ve seen this movie. Not to say that “Chappaquiddick” is a bad movie. To the contrary, with the exception of some slowness in the middle after the accident while they wait for Kennedy’s hearing, this is a very well-made movie. It’s just that the subject of the movie is so repugnant.

That’s not to say that the performances are bad either. Jason Clarke is perfectly cast as he looks and acts the part of circa-1969 Ted Kennedy. Ed Helms is also great as Joe Gargan—lawyer, Kennedy cousin, and the only decent one closely involved in this fiasco. Then of course there is Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne, the woman who drowned (or suffocated?) after the original Lyin’ Ted drunkenly drove his car off of a bridge and into a pond. The car over turned. He managed to escape but left her there and didn’t report the incident until the next morning—roughly nine hours later. That’s right, the honorable (and I use the term very loosely) senator from Massachusetts was so worried about his family name and political career that a 28 year-old woman with a bright future died because of him.

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I appreciate “Chappaquiddick” for taking the stance that Kennedy was drunk (something he denied) and negligent. The movie does not paint a flattering portrait of Kennedy, nor should it. Even better, I like the fact that Mary Jo Kopechne is treated as an actual person and not just a prop in a story about a Kennedy. We never lose sight that a woman lost her life that night because of one man’s selfishness.

If only Kennedy kept that in mind. His televised statement on July 25, 1969, is faithfully recreated, right down to the color of the books on the case behind him. His cold, calculating, woe is me remarks are delivered expertly by Clarke, trying to capture how detached and unemotional Kennedy is about the ordeal, and trying to make himself into a victim of bad luck. The only drawback is that as an actor, Clarke is a bit too in touch with his feelings and not as closed off as needed. For true chills, Buy it and replace Clarke’s scene with video of the real Ted Kennedy’s twelve minute statement delivered on July 25, 1969, available on youtube. To grasp the insincerity and hollowness of his words, nothing beats the real thing.

More New Releases: “211,” a bank heist movie in the vein of ‘End of Watch’ meets ‘Black Hawk Down,’ starring Nicolas Cage; and “Lean on Pete,” about a 15 year old-boy who takes a summer job and befriends a failing racehorse, starring Chloë Sevigny, Travis Fimmel, Steve Zahn, Steve Buscemi.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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