A Quiet Place Part II, 2021.
Written and Directed by John Krasinski.
Starring Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Djimon Hounsou, Wayne Duvall, and John Krasinski.
Following the events at home, the Abbott family now face the terrors of the outside world. Forced to venture into the unknown, they realize the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats lurking beyond the sand path.
Rather than pick up the story from its predecessor’s rousing climax where the Abbott family discover how to kill the echolocating aliens, A Quiet Place Part II brings us back to day one of the invasion presumably for three reasons: it’s the only way to give writer/director John Krasinski a little bit more screen time following his noble sacrifice in A Quiet Place, to introduce a friend of the family Emmett (Cillian Murphy), and seemingly to nerf the danger these extraterrestrial beings impose. I suppose that the last one is necessary if this sequel balances out chase sequences with fighting back, but even then, they appear to now be slightly easier to escape upon making noise. It’s a strange and conflicting move for a series that dared to kill off a child in Part I to emphasize being utterly screwed if someone draws attention to themselves with the faintest of sounds.
Nevertheless, after exemplifying that he can still stage breathless sequences of tension, A Quiet Place Part II flashes forward to the exact moment Emily Blunt’s Evelyn figured out that scrambled frequencies cause the exterior shell of an alien’s head to open up, revealing a weak spot, especially when sponging a shotgun blast. The Abbotts briefly mourn their losses before moving on in search of Emmett (who John Krasinski’s Lee had been trying to contact for backup). They do locate him (albeit not without an ankle injury to young Marcus played by a returning Noah Jupe), where they find out Emmett is a coward that never went looking to rescue anyone and that he has also lost everyone he loves.
This is where strong-willed and mute deaf Regan (Millicent Simmonds, once again the best part of these movies) steps forward and calls Emmett out for being selfish and nothing like her father. She also uncovers a radio broadcast that implies that there could be safety beyond the sea on an island, setting her off on her own journey to find true sanctuary for her family. Emmett already doesn’t want to protect them and harps on about not having enough food for everyone, so he’s not going to go. Marcus is injured. Evelyn has to look after the newborn baby (which she wisely carries around inside a closed wooden box supplemented with an oxygen tank).
It’s also the moment where I was on board most with A Quiet Place Part II. The opportunity to focus on one character alongside her combination of grieving and heroics, however potentially reckless, signifies that John Krasinski (it’s also worth noting that Scott Beck and Bryan Woods created the characters) wants to flesh out these family members. The nature of Regan’s disability also allows for more playful experimenting with sound design amidst trying to stay quiet and alive, switching between audio perspectives and once again using silence as a sound to raise the suspense. There is also a grave sense of peril and urgency watching her set out on this mission alone. Perhaps most tantalizing. Millicent Simmonds crushes every emotional beat she is required to convey early on, so there’s no doubting she wouldn’t be able to carry the movie with nothing but body language and gumption.
Unfortunately, the film mostly falls back on this intriguing setup as Emmett takes Evelyn’s panic into serious consideration and saves Regan. During this, oxygen begins to run out, prompting Evelyn to venture out alone, leaving Marcus behind with the baby. Without much into detail, there is a tense centerpiece action sequence crosscutting between characters fighting and surviving, subsequently heading in a multitude of bizarre directions that feel either underwritten or drastically chopped for time. New enemies arrive for only one scene, we meet new survivors (including one character played by Djimon Hounsou that doesn’t even get a name), and more is discovered regarding the aliens.
At times, A Quiet Place Part II feels aimless, which is actually a positive for the story considering it’s difficult to parse where this family goes from the first film’s events. Just as quickly, the narrative also becomes wholly bland and more interested in explaining more about the aliens instead of exploring its characters. Transitioning the horror elements to something more action-oriented is fine (there’s a good balance of both here), but John Krasinski’s meticulous crafting can only take the experience so far before it begins to feel like diminishing returns of the same thing. Toss in the sloppy final act (notwithstanding a fantastic climax boasting layers of symmetry between siblings and the first film itself) that feels like a skeleton of a story, and you’re left with something more along the lines of a confounding place. On a technical level, A Quiet Place Part II is excellently made with creativity driving every scenario but lacking everywhere else, especially in the places that matter most.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com