Originally, I had no intention of reviewing Netflix’s The Silence, but a couple of realizations changed my mind. The first is that the way we consume entertainment has changed so much over the last few years, more Americans will probably watch The Silence on Netflix than will go to the movies this weekend. Second, I haven’t written a positive review of anything since Jordan Peele’s Us a few weeks ago and even I get tired of my complaining.
My approach to a movie is very simple: Does it grab and keep my attention? That’s my standard. That’s it. I don’t care if its Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941) or Rowdy Herrington’s Road House (1989) — hold my attention and I’ll love you forever.
And sometimes the venue matters. Would I have enjoyed The Silence on the big screen? Possibly, but nowhere near as much because it feels like a TV movie, plays like a TV movie, and on TV it works like gangbusters.
Okay, the complaints you might be hearing are legitimate. If you’ve seen John Krasinski’s outstanding A Quiet Place (2018), you’ve pretty much seen The Silence. But in its defense, The Silence is based on a book published three years before A Quiet Place was released, and isn’t Pitch Black (2000) really the first of this kind?
Besides, how is sameness a criticism in a 2019 America addicted to the sameness, dependent on sameness, comforted by sameness? Let’s face it, other than to embrace even more sameness, the look and style of this country has hardly changed since 1995. Don’t believe me? Go check out Captain Marvel. It’s set in 1995 and if no one told you that, you’d hardly notice.
Because we are talking about winged death, The Silence also reminds me of a couple pulpers I love and pretty much everyone else hates: Arthur Hiller’s Nightwing (1979) — a classic filled with Indian mumbo-jumbo and killer vampire bats; and Bats (1999), another classic with Sheriff Lou Diamond Phillips and genetically modified killer bats.
Anyway, back to The Silence…
The great Stanley Tucci plays Hugh Andrews, who’s a bit of a wimp. His best friend since childhood is Glenn (John Corbett) — he’s the tough guy in the duo, the man of action, the one Hugh’s young son looks up to.
Hugh’s daughter Ally (Kiernan Shipka — you’ll remember her as the daughter in Mad Men) recently lost her hearing in a car accident, which means her voice still sounds normal but she and the family all know sign language, which is about to come in very handy, because…
Some dumbass scientist-types went where they were not supposed to and released the “vesps,” a massive flock of dinosaur birds about the size of hawks. Millions of years of evolution in the dark means the vesps hunt by sound. They are also (tee hee) meat eaters, flesh rippers, swarmers who reproduce like house flies.
Obviously, Hugh and family will have to be very, very, very quiet if they are to survive, which is bad news for the family dog and while we love you grandma the lung cancer cough is gunna be a problem.
Although the threat is different — the creatures in The Silence are terrestrial while the creatures in A Quiet Place are extra-terrestrial — The Silence essentially works as a prequel to A Quiet Place, and let’s face it, watching the apocalypse unfurl is always vicarious fun. Because we don’t want to go to work in the morning and are arrogant enough to believe we’ll be one of the few remaining survivors, we all fantasize about the end of the world.
As the crisis unfold, the news media and government urge everyone to shelter in place. But since this is the same media and government that told us Trump was a Russian spy, at this point, we all know the family has a tough decision to make. Glenn, our man of action, pretty much yells “fake news!” and urges Hugh to follow him out of the city before the roads clog. Hugh wisely loads up the family and unwisely loads up the Barky the Dog and Grandma Coughy.
Glenn loads up his arsenal.
You can imagine the rest of the story from here because you’ve already seen it a million times.
But the sameness is not what matters. All you should care about is the execution, so let me put it this way…
With end credits, The Silence is a tighter than tight 90 minutes long, has plenty of suspenseful set-pieces, solid special effects, and plays infinitely better than any episode of the Walking Dead you’ve seen in five years.
What more do you want?
How about a movie where the main character’s arc is to summon the courage to headbutt a guy?
Oh, yeah… My kind of movie.