Director: John Krasinski
Writer: John Krasinski
Cast: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, John Krasinski
Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, John Krasinski
Music: Marco Beltrami
Cinematography: Polly Morgan
Editor: Michael P. Shawver
Running time: 97mins
What’s the story: Following the events of A Quiet Place, the surviving Abbotts seek refuge with embittered recluse Emmett (Murphy). The Abbott daughter Regan (Simmonds) believes a song looped on the radio provides a clue to a refuge, but reaching it will be anything but easy.
What’s the verdict: Small wonder Stephen King tweeted his love for 2018’s A Quiet Place. With its killer story hook (earth is invaded by lethal aliens who hunt by sound), single location setting and focus on a family in peril, it had the lean, irresistible efficiency of a classic King short story. Complete with a knockout ending that hints at a more epic tale, but stands alone just fine, thank you very much.
News of a sequel brought expectation, and not a little trepidation. Surviving cast members were back, and John Krasinski was also returning as director (alongside picking up sole scriptwriting duties). But, was there really more story to tell worth the hearing (or more specifically, seeing)?
Adding to the unease was A Quiet Place II being another early COVID casualty, lockdown wiping out its original release date. As we saw with Tenet, anticipating a COVID-delayed movie could bring great disappointment.
That A Quiet Place II succeeds as a follow-up to the breakout original could be a sign then we are emerging from our own dark time. Which is not to say it is flawless; sequelitis has undeniably set into some of its moving parts. But, this delivers the nerve-shredding set-pieces that made the first instalment so memorable, and is a better big experience than Nolan’s retread of former glories.
Sticking with the Stephen King comparison, Krasinski opens Pt II on that most King of American pastimes, the Junior High baseball game. This is Day 1 of the invasion, and after re-introducing the Abbotts, mum Evelyn (Blunt), dad Lee (Krasinski), daughter Regan (Simmonds), son Marcus (Jupe) and the Abbotts toddler, plus neighbour Emmett (Murphy), dark clouds literally gather above as the lethal insectoids invade.
As director, Krasinski proves he can move his confident handling of FX into a more ambitious environment. Producer Michael Bay should be forced to watch on repeat the scene in which the marauding extraterrestrial meanies destroy small town main street. Mayhem is always better when it’s coherent, Mike. It’s one hell of an opening and audiences may find the abrupt change of pace post-title card jarring.
We then jump to Day 474, aka the day the first movie ended. A Quiet Place Part II picks up moments after its predecessor, as Evelyn gathers the kids and flees their now destroyed home. Coming across a seemingly abandoned factory, they seek refuge with Emmett, traumatised and definitely not putting out any welcome mat.
Where the film stumbles is in moving its characters around the board. Kudos to Krasinski for not just repeating his first movie, but where the joy of that film came in following a close knit family battling to save each other, splitting up his players across different plot threads weakens the story’s hold. Blunt still impresses as the steel-resolve matriarch, but is left holding the fort. As the elder Abbott son, Jupe is saddled with a plot contrivance that exists merely to ring the dinner bell for the film’s alien threat, thereby putting half the cast into position for the climax.
Better served are Simmonds and Murphy, who receive a larger helping of danger and excitement. Murphy, whose features are literally in sharp contrast to Krasinski’s softer face, does typically strong work as a man locked down in all ways slowly moving back toward humanity. His father-daughter chemistry with the excellent Simmonds demonstrates again that Krasinski was paying attention during the emotional beats of The Office all those years ago.
By expanding its world, A Quiet Place Part II inevitably stumbles into Walking Dead territory, and there is a dulled familiarity to other people being a threat, or characters stumbling across the spectacular aftermath of a disaster. Saving the film from a whiff of staleness are its baddies, who have lost none of their popcorn friendly terror. Numerous tense set-pieces are served up, including a dockside encounter that sees the film flexing both suspense and action muscles.
Krasinski should also be applauded for making a mainstream movie which demands your full attention. Unafraid to drop dialogue for long stretches, this is not a film that cannot be half-watched while flicking through a phone. But, for those willing to engage eyes, ears, and their attention span, it frequently frights and delights.
Definitely the middle film of what now promises to be a trilogy, Part II may not flow as smoothly as A Quiet Place, but you won’t be afraid to shout about its charms.