A Quiet Place Part II
2021, PG-13, 97 min. Directed by John Krasinski. Starring Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, John Krasinski.
REVIEWED By Matthew Monagle, Fri., May 28, 2021
In 2020, Paramount’s decision to postpone the release of A Quiet Place Part II was one of the biggest signs that the COVID-19 pandemic was here to stay. So perhaps it is fitting that John Krasinski’s much-anticipated sequel is one of the first films to hit theatres as part of the grand reopening. With vaccinated audiences ready to get back to normal, Krasinski and company are gambling that their film is the right one to lead the way. And spoiler alert? They’re mostly right.
Picking up right after the events of A Quiet Place, Krasinski’s sequel captures the surviving members of Abbott family (Blunt as mother Evelyn, Simmonds as daughter Regan, Jupe as surviving son Marcus, and the newborn baby) on the run from the mysterious, deadly creatures that have scoured the Earth. Armed with Regan’s disruptive hearing aid (seemingly the only weapon against the creatures), they flee their rural valley haven only to encounter former neighbor Emmett (Murphy). Emmett argues self-preservation, warning the Abbotts that the last survivors have become twisted and dark things to survive this new world. But Regan sees an opportunity to provide help, and she convinces a reluctant Murphy to seek out the nearest radio station and bring her life-saving signal to the world around them.
As the director and star of A Quiet Place, Krasinski demonstrated an innate understanding of how his character’s relationship with Regan is informed by her deafness. Lee only wanted the best for his daughter, but he also failed to see her as anything other than a liability. In doing so, Lee held his family back and doomed himself to death. Now, with the script in his hands, Krasinski has created Lee’s shadow self in Emmett, the family friend who takes Regan under his wing. Emmett may be harsh and uncaring, but he does what Lee could never bring himself to do: trust Regan to fend for herself.
This pairing between Emmett and Regan gives Krasinski the foundation he needs to focus on the technical aspects of filmmaking. The true talent of A Quiet Place Part II belongs to editor Michael P. Shawver, who manages to turn two relatively straightforward storylines into competing narratives tied to a singular outcome. With Krasinski’s knack for mass-market horror – he walks a deceptively difficult line between genre and multiplex atmosphere – and Shawver’s gift for creating a rising tide of tension throughout the film, the sequel manages to be more entertaining than its predecessor without losing too much of its character work along the way.
And it needs all the help it can get, because A Quiet Place Part II is more an expansion on the themes of the original than an outright sequel. The film is anchored – almost entrenched – in the narrative of the first. Despite an opening flashback sequence that shows off the film’s technical chops, the sequel is more interested in tinkering with the idea of the first film than pushing the boundaries of the world or the story. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it will come as a surprise to those who expected the sequel to offer either a lot less or a whole bunch more.
Perhaps this approach makes A Quiet Place II the cinematic answer to downloadable content, a standalone adventure that offers new levels but no new narrative. Those who responded to the tight family focus of the first film will no doubt struggle with the divided storylines; Regan’s absence proves how shallow some of the other characterizations truly are. But there are worse fates for a filmmaker than a B-movie executed with blockbuster panache, especially when audiences are ready to forgive any number of flaws in favor of a return to the theatrical experience.