MOVIE REVIEW: A Quiet Place (2018)

Anchored by exponentially gripping performances, and a direction that navigates the audience to untouched paradigms of horror, A Quiet Place is a cathartic genre-film that welcomes John Krasinski to a lineup of masterful contemporary directors.

The film uses its chilling silence to draw the audience in, and it grips you so tightly with its eerie quietness, with every jolt of sudden sound will make your nerves erupt. Sound is perhaps the main character of the film, acting both as the protagonist and the villain. Its absence is a mere relief, yet the anticipation of every incoming soundbite brings uncanny tension that seems to be unstoppable from start to finish. Krasinski used the character of sound to create an unsettling friction throughout the movie, making it an unnerving experience other than just a regular film viewing. The audience is involved all throughout. The stillness of the movie’s narrative aims to pull the viewers in a magnetic field of terror. It grabs you by the neck, and it won’t let you go.

Recent horror films like Get Out, Don’t Breathe and Cloverfield have introduced a new wave of the genre that doesn’t just aim to give a fright. These trailblazers to the genre have revamped succeeding horror films into stylish, full-bodied, socially relevant commentaries that unmask the dark layers of reality. A Quiet Place is no exception in the continuance of that conversation.

Epitomizing Undertones: The Prey and the Predator

Get Out didn’t really have undertones — it was quite an in-your-face punch to white supremacy. Don’t get me wrong — it worked beautifully. However, the bliss of A Quiet Place is that every commentary is layered in metaphors that come unexpected. From the entrapment of children (a subtle strike to pedophilia to underage preys), to Emily Blunt’s disturbing labor scene (which denotes silencing harassment), the movie perfectly embraces the purpose of undertones on film.

In an era where our political climate seemed to be unraveling, particularly sexual offenders and predators, the noise of testimonies from both men and women who have been victims of these acts are starting to spew out. Naturally, to protect these crime instigators, silencing their victims has been a very popular trend for the past few decades. Parallel to the film, its main theme is “stay quiet to survive.” In reality, these victims have been silenced to still have a continuous way of life — the validation of their careers; the acceptance from their peers; and most importantly, the preservation of their self-respect. It has been criminally normalized that coming out from these claims will end whatever that is left of you, as if having a voice to assert your right to justice connotes to the stigma of ending your own life. The film is a reflection of that preposterous, yet equally relevant reality.

Anatomy of a Scene: Giving Birth in the Bathtub

In lieu to the abovementioned political undertones that the film possesses, it was perfectly epitomized in the scene where Emily Blunt undergoes labor, and eventually gives birth in the bathtub; needless to say, while keeping her mouth shut in silence in order to save herself and her unborn child. An impossible thing to do, Blunt struggles and fights to endure the pain in quiet terror.

Giving birth is perhaps the most raw, intimate, and personal event a woman’s body could undergo. Fighting against the excruciating pain is not just a torture to a woman’s physiological reflex of release, but also a violation to a human’s dire need to be vulnerable at a time that calls for vulnerability — all for the goal to “stay quiet to survive.” Blunt’s petrified face whilst in labor as the monster lurks around the corner is a classic archetype of predators passively silencing their victims to fight for their lives.

Emily Blunt gives a career-defining performance as a mother whose strength and vulnerability bask the audience, catapulted by a direction meant to highlight her exquisite dramatic techniques. Her labor scene is perhaps one of the most iconic moments of any horror films to date. A bold statement: the performance will stand the test of time, and will be recognized by guilds of accolades even with such an early release, similar to that of Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out. This needs serious consideration for later this year’s awards.

In a nutshell, A Quiet Place didn’t need a spoken word to stir a triumph of emotions — terror, love for family, hope, and the pivotal battle to survive. An avant garde direction that gives another meaning to the household of new wave horror films, and a perfectly orchestrated performance by a committed cast are all it needed. There’s simply nothing like this in the history of horror filmmaking.

5 out of 5 stars

Thank you, Director’s Club and SM Cinema, for the invite to see A Quiet Place!

Book your tickets through the new website, or for an even more convenient experience, get the SM Cinema mobile app. Stay tuned to SM Cinema on Facebook and @SM_Cinema on Instagram for more information.

MOVIE REVIEW: Rampage (2018)

“The Rock” battling giant monsters in RAMPAGE. Need I say more?

Rampage is loosely based on a 1986 arcade game which allows its player to control a trio of genetically-enhanced monsters—a gorilla, a wolf, and a crocodile—whose goal is to reduce the surface of the earth into smithereens. It is quite bemusing how a game with such a thin narrative that can be limited to the word “smash” gets a motion picture deal. (Then again, this should not be a surprise in Hollywood.) But fear not, director Brad Peyton and his team of four writers manufactured a serviceable plot to justify the mass destruction that’s about to ensue. It’s your basic template of “scientific experiments go wrong, monsters are unleashed” so as expected, the film comes out as derivative as it can get: see Planet of The Apes, King Kong, Godzilla and every “Kaiju” film made. There’s nothing new here and frankly, it’s a lame excuse to supersize danger once again. And so, how does Rampage turn this tedious, exasperating monster fanfare into something truly enjoyable? The answer is by casting “The Rock” as its lead actor.

Dwayne Johnson has been a formidable, go-to actor when it comes to the disaster genre. (In an actual case of a natural disaster, I wouldn’t mind standing next to this guy.) He has this enviable inherent quality of elevating a source material. Not to mention, he plays nearly the same character wearing nearly the same gray shirt. In here, he is Davis Okoye, a primatologist who has a special bond with a silverback gorilla named George (motion capture played by Jason Liles). The two express their “bro-ape-mance” through sign language and friendly trash-talking with an undying loyalty as the emotional core that binds the film together.

This is Peyton’s third collaboration with Dwayne Johnson, and if you’ve seen their recent works (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and San Andreas), you’ll pretty much have a gauge of what to expect here, except Rampage is somehow better than the first two. It looks like Peyton’s goal here is to deliver a boisterous and nonsensical action fully-aware of its ludicrous plot. In doing so, expositions are heavily handed among characters to sell half-baked science concepts such as “genetic editing,” the reason why the animals are experiencing exponential growth giving them extra abilities such as flying. With the help of a discredited genetic engineer Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), Davis goes rogue and attempts to talk some sense into his former gorilla best friend. Rampage is so self-aware of how “bananas” it is that it almost loops back to being smart.

It’s only fitting that Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s caricaturish portrayal of Harvey Russell steps in the picture. “When science sh*ts the bed, I’m the one they call to change the sheets.” He’s a government agent who’s more interested in flaunting his smug looks and delivering his s-slow lines rather than actually saving the world. If anyone here watches The Walking Dead, he is essentially a pre-apocalypse, friendlier version of Negan. It’s clear to him what kind of film he’s in and he’s having a blast doing it. The good thing is, I am not yet getting tired of this ‘soon-to-be-hopefully-not Al Pacino brand of acting’.

The colossal showdown culminates in Chicago serving as the battleground. The shot of three beasts climbing the same tower looks menacingly glorious. Buildings and vehicles are smashed, military men and civilians are getting squashed – so much violence is happening in this film but Peyton wants his audience to root for Davis and George that viewers can almost easily switch-off their conscience, desensitize to all the deaths happening in the background and satisfy their lust for annihilation… if that’s not much of a wicked thing to say.

However, I can only take off my “thinking cap” for so long. A couple of questions inevitably pop through my head as a passing thought: How can a thermostat hack an entire network server? What is the actual purpose of the antidote? Why do the twin megalomaniac villains (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy) summoned the monsters to their building with them still inside it? What happened to the few characters introduced at the beginning of the film? How can Davis withstand all the craziness of the third act with a bullet inside his stomach? Well, these eventually turn into rubble as the film eclipses them with a boisterous finale. The only response I get in the end is George flipping the bird to Davis. Because, let’s get real: viewers don’t really care about these. We came in for the “rampage” right? And certainly, the movie lives up to its title.

So this is where we’re at, an arcade game adaptation gets a good rating mainly due to the breezy charisma of Dwayne Johnson. Give him a cheesy line and he will sell it. In hindsight, if a different action hero headlines in this, the film will come out as a totally-different movie. Rampage’s plot gets buried by the end but it doesn’t matter: the CGI is outstanding and it is as big, loud and insane as it could be (the opening sequence involving a giant rat in space is already thrilling to watch). It’s brutal but it still somehow ends up as an enjoyable family film with a pace brisk enough to hold the attention of the kids.

With the right level of expectation, you should come out of the theater satisfied and perhaps with a stupid grin on your face.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, Rampage is now showing on PH cinemas.

WATCH: ‘Ocean’s 8’ main trailer shows women have what it takes

Having this much fun is a crime. Watch the official main trailer for Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Oceans 8” which has just been released by the studio.

Oscar winner Sandra Bullock stars in the title role, alongside Oscar winners Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, with Rihanna and Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Gary Ross is directing.

Five years, eight months, 12 days…and counting. That’s how long Debbie Ocean (Bullock) has been devising the biggest heist of her life. She knows what it’s going to take—a team of the best in their field, starting with her partner-in-crime Lou Miller (Blanchett). Together, they recruit a crew of specialists: jeweler Amita (Kaling); street con Constance (Awkwafina); expert fence Tammy (Paulson); hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna); and fashion designer Rose (Bonham Carter). The target is a cool $150 million dollars in diamonds—diamonds that will be around the neck of world-famous actress Daphne Kluger (Hathaway), who will be centerstage at the event of the year, the Met Gala. The plan is rock solid, but everything will need to be flawless if the team is going to get in and get away with the ice. All in plain sight.

Ross directs from a screenplay he wrote with Olivia Milch (upcoming “Dude”), with Steven Soderbergh and Jon Kilik producing, Michael Tadross, Susan Ekins, Sandra Bullock, Diana Alvarez and Bruce Berman executive producing, and Milch co-producing. Filming is taking place in and around New York City.

In Philippine cinemas June 13, “Ocean’s 8” is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.