Spoiler-free review! (We’ll mention the ending of the soundtrack, but not of the movie.) A Quiet Place is of special interest due to its concentration on silence and sound. How would Marco Beltrami score it? Unlike other films light on dialogue (Gravity, Castaway, Moon, The Martian), this one features an interacting cast, plus monsters. The tagline: if they hear you, they hunt you. The family must resort to using sign language, laying down sand paths, communicating with coded lights. But A Quiet Place is by no means a silent movie. The score is integral not only to the film’s mood, but to its eventual impact.
I’ve seen the film once, and played the soundtrack at least a dozen times. By now, the album has begun to reveal different charms; at 48 minutes, it’s not just a compact reflection of the film, but a separately enjoyable experience. The composer took inspiration from Peter Gabriel’s version of David Bowie’s Heroes, which may sound like a horrible idea until one listens to the music as it morphs from tension to triumph. Much has been made of the fact that budget limitations prevented Beltrami from using an orchestra, but one is not necessary for such an intimate production. The five-note theme on de-tuned piano offers a warped replica of Close Encounters of the Third Kind; the glissandos are reminiscent of Sicario, which was about a different sort of hunting. But Beltrami’s most distinctive work is in the electronic modification of string notes, which provides the “monster” with its signature sound.
After a thrilling beginning (“It Hears You”), the composer turns his attention to the family, offering a slight respite through piano and violin, still de-tuned, but restful. Despite this aural oasis, there’s no doubt that the creatures are nearby. Staccato strings, electronic pulses and the ubiquitous glissandos are the hints that one should really be quiet, right now. The end of “Children of the Corn” is especially effective as it races to the red levels before being cut off. And yes, that’s another film reference.
Viewers want the family to survive. Tracks “A Quiet Life” and “A Quiet Moment” indicate that they may, with only minor dissonance. “The Dinner Table” contains an undercurrent of sadness, shifting from the fight for survival to the cost of survival. The score even manages to find small moments of wonder, heightening the fear of loss. John Krasinski won’t let them die … will he?
The two forces ~ family and monster ~ are perfectly represented in Beltrami’s score. Like the film, he holds back until the finale, when all the stops are pulled out. We won’t tell you how it ends, only that it’s very exciting, justifying the buildup. Listening to the score without the film, one will still be able to glean the outcome. More than anything, one will feel charged. Beltrami has worked on over a hundred films, from The Hurt Locker to Logan, the majority of them suspenseful. A Quiet Place is by far his best. (Richard Allen)