“Hulu’s No One Will Save You is one of this year’s most riveting and original sci-fi thrillers.”
Kaitlyn Dever’s commanding, largely silent lead performance
Brian Duffield’s minimalistic, lean screenplay
A nerve-racking first act
A few tonally inconsistent moments throughout
A third act that doesn’t totally hit the mark
What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night to find your front door open and an alien walking around the first floor of your house? That’s the dilemma No One Will Save You presents, and that shouldn’t be considered a spoiler because it happens well within the film’s first 10 minutes. Part of the thriller’s brilliance, in fact, lies in just how uninterested it is in padding out its taut 93-minute runtime. Once it has taken the time necessary to introduce its heroine, Kaitlyn Dever’s socially ostracized Brynn, No One Will Save You is ready to start delivering on the sci-fi promises of its alien invasion premise.
And deliver it does. Over the course of its delightfully bare-bones story, the film, which comes from writer-director Brian Duffield, continually finds new ways to scare, surprise, and trap its perpetually confused protagonist in unexpected, horrifying situations. Not all of its beats lead to the most logically sound or tonally consistent resolutions, but the manner in which the film so relentlessly tortures Dever’s Brynn ensures that it’s never anything but gripping. That’s an impressive feat, and it’s made even more so by the fact that nary a single line of dialogue is delivered throughout the thriller.
The film is as minimalistic as it gets, and while its quiet release on Hulu is a disappointing fate to befall it, that doesn’t stop No One Will Save You from emerging as one of the year’s most entertaining and original sci-fi offerings.
At the center of the film’s plot is Dever’s Brynn, a quiet, socially anxious young woman who lives alone in a remote house located several miles outside of her small, secluded hometown. As the movie’s purposefully spare opening five minutes reveal, Brynn has grown used to spending her days watching other people from afar, shipping the kind of homemade items you’d find on Etsy, and writing mysteriously apologetic letters to her childhood friend, Maude. Her already unfulfilling existence is turned upside down when she receives a visit one night from an obtuse, gray-skinned alien capable of telekinetically switching Brynn’s electricity on and off and dragging her across a room at will.
This encounter, which Duffield wisely stretches out until it takes up the majority of No One Will Save You’s first third, is as ceaselessly intense as any sequence from any of this year’s other genre films. While Duffield’s direction throughout is, like the film itself, relatively straightforward and unfussy, he makes brilliant use of his frame’s foreground and background spaces — constantly introducing an alien outline in the frame of a door that Brynn has just ducked around. The director similarly makes effective, economic use of his heroine’s multilevel craftsman house — using wooden staircase panels and the marbled glass of her kitchen dividers to obscure the arrival of the set piece’s central extraterrestrial villain.
These techniques are all relatively simple, but the effect they achieve is nonetheless impressive. No One Will Save You’s first act is, for the most part, a collection of well-staged visual gags that turn its isolated house into an equivalent of the labyrinth from Greek legend and Dever’s Brynn into a stand-in for Theseus, the hero destined to evade and kill the dangerous creature roaming within. Duffield, to his further credit, patiently builds up the tension of Brynn’s first alien encounter before bringing it to a sudden end with a burst of violence that is well-choreographed and visually well-executed.
Once No One Will Save You’s second act begins, the film’s grip on its own sci-fi logic begins to loosen. Duffield finds plenty of ways to believably trap his heroine in a seemingly inescapable situation, including one nonverbal scene between her and her town’s chief of police that is stunning in its emotional brutality, but a few of the film’s second-act developments inject shades of absurd horror into it a bit too abruptly to work or land with any real force. The thriller’s visual effects are similarly uneven in their quality and presentation, though Duffield uses several simple cutting and blocking techniques to make up for that fact.
Its narrative and visual flaws aside, the film represents a major step up in almost every way from Duffield’s 2020 directorial debut, Spontaneous. That high-concept dramedy, although charming in its own absurd way, didn’t do much to announce Duffield as a technical craftsman. No One Will Save Youwith its coldly effective visual storytelling and lean plotting, does that and more. While its straight-to-streaming release may have robbed it of the positive word-of-mouth it could have garnered from theatergoing audiences, the film is still the kind of well-crafted genre thriller that should open enough doors to let Duffield do whatever he wants next.
As for Dever, No One Will Save You only further cements her as one of the more fearless and capable young actresses of her generation. The film asks a lot of her physically — forcing her to go head-to-head with several CGI aliens, most of whom tower over her — but it’s the way she tackles her character’s silent streak that makes the biggest impression. Few actresses working today would likely be interested in leading a 90-minute film in which they’re given only one perceptible line of dialogue, but even fewer could overcome that hurdle as effortlessly as Dever. Never at any point throughout No One Will Save You is it unclear what Brynn is thinking or feeling, and that’s as integral to the film’s success as its script and direction.
The further No One Will Save You gets into its final third, the more interior, ambiguous, and daring it becomes. After spending much of the film operating in such a coolly economical way, Duffield allows both himself and Dever the chance to untether themselves from reality — if only just a bit. By doing so, the writer-director sets the film up for a conclusion that is confounding and satisfying in equal measure, and which lays the thriller’s various contradictions utterly bare. In the end, No One Will Save You is a lot of a things at the same time. It’s a high-concept drama about an alien invasion and the ostracizing effects of guilt, sure, but it’s also a lean, mean thriller that gets in and out as quickly as it can while making as little of a fuss as possible.
It’s not perfect, but in terms of straightforward sci-fi thrillers, it might as well be the platonic ideal — and it’s already one of this year’s biggest surprise gems.
No One Will Save You is streaming now on Hulu. The movie is just one of September’s sci-fi movies you need to watch.