We begin “A Quiet Place” in a dead-silent small town. The streets and shops and sidewalks have all been emptied of chattering human life, and no one and nothing is making a sound because almost everyone is dead and civilization has collapsed.

It looks (and sounds) really nice.

But then we learn the reason for the sound of silence, and it’s not super-chill: Monsters have taken over the world. The monsters are blind and hunt by sound, and so the scant few remaining human survivors know that if you want to stay alive, you (in a shout whisper) STAY QUIET!

“A Quiet Place,” boasting such little exposition it borders on the miraculous, introduces us to a family of five living in a barn in rural New York. So far, they’ve survived the apocalypse by staying extremely quiet.

Lee (John Krasinski, who also co-wrote and directed the film) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s real-life wife) have forced their family to adapt. They’ve left a footfall-muffling trail of sand between their home and the nearby abandoned towns. They’ve painted a path of the least creaky floorboards in their old farmhouse.

But the most apparent reason for their survival? They know American Sign Language. Their eldest child, Regan (a wonderful Millicent Simmonds), is deaf and already adapted to a world of silence. Regan’s two younger brothers, Marcus and Beau, are not so well prepared.

The family treads carefully and signs sparingly (we get subtitles when they do), making “A Quiet Place” a film with almost no spoken dialogue. We get an early glimpse of the creatures — they’re about human-sized and, design-wise, a mix between Venom and the “Cloverfield” monster. We also see what happens to humans who make noise.

The stakes are established (brutally). The family in danger is immediately lovable. And you won’t be able to breathe normally for the remainder of the film (which, not including credits, clocks in at an amazingly lean 82 minutes).

“A Quiet Place” is unquestionably a gimmick movie. And yet the gimmick has been so thoroughly realized and ingeniously executed by third-time director Krasinski (who co-wrote the movie off a spec script by Iowa screenwriters Bryan Woods and Scott Beck) that this has the feel of a ready-made classic.

It traffics less in horror and jump scares (though there are a few good ones) than it does in white-knuckle suspense. In “A Quiet Place,” innocuous everyday items, like toy space shuttles and Monopoly game pieces, possess the potential for the family’s doom.

With each new scene, the film zigs where other thrillers would zag. Certain sequences recall Hitchcock or early M. Night Shyamalan, but without being self-consciously referential. Krasinski isn’t interested in paying homage. He’s just trying to give everyone in the theater a panic attack. On this level, he succeeds with flying colors. My inner monologue throughout the majority of the film could be summed up as “Oh $**#, oh $**#, oh $**#.” I imagine you’ll have a similar reaction.

Who knew that Jim from “The Office” had such a film in him?

One of Krasinski’s best moves is ceding the movie to Blunt, who gives a warm and heartbreaking performance. His other best move is letting Simmonds steal the movie right out from under both of them.

Simmonds (a deaf actress who made her film debut in 2017’s “Wonderstruck”) is the most prominent and powerful character in the film. As much as “A Quiet Place” is a crackerjack monster movie, it is also just as effectively the comic-book origin story of a broken-hearted young woman who turns what was, in a previous world, an impairment into a weapon. She is her family’s best hope.

As the film’s Shyamalan-y deus-ex-machina of a climax reaches its apex, “A Quiet Place” does something amazing, something so few movies know how to do: It goes silent and rolls the end credits at just the right time. It’s said all it needs to say and nothing more.

“A Quiet Place” hasn’t made a single wrong move up to this point. And then it sticks its perfect landing, and “Directed by John Krasinski” hits the screen, and there’s only one appropriate way to break the silence: thunderous applause.

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