Cast: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Djimon Hounsou. Directed by: John Krasinski.
There’s a famous story that goes like this: when pitching a sequel to the classic 70s sci-fi horror Alien, James Cameron wrote the title on a whiteboard, added an “s” and then turned the “s” into a dollar sign. The premise was simple: bigger = better. It’s hard to argue with the logic; both Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgement Day were commercial successes. John Krasinski doesn’t go the whole hog and make Quiet Places, but the essence is still there.
Picking up after the first film, the surviving members of the Abbott family — mother Evelyn, deaf daughter Regan, son Marcus and little baby Abbott — set out into the world armed with the knowledge that high frequencies harm the big nasty monsters hunting for sound makers, when they realise there are survivors out there.
2018’s A Quiet Place didn’t mark a debut for John Krasinski in any career sense – he’d already acted in movies, he had directed movies Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and The Hollars, produced several and written Promised Land. But A Quiet Place marked a debut for Krasinski in genre, before then he was the affable bloke from the US Office as well as a regular supporting actor in indie movies and likeable comedies.
With his 2018 movie, Krasinski gave us a white knuckle tour-de-force of cinematic filmmaking. A film that needed to be seen in a big loud cinema because it was a film about sound and seeing and experiencing. Now, delayed for a year, Krasinski returns with his sequel. After a confident prologue about the first day the sound sensitive bug alien monsters arrived – carnage ensues in gut wrenching long takes ripped straight from the Spielberg hand-book, we get back to where we left the Abbott clan.
Despite taking two / three years to come and the fact that clearly Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds are going through the latter stages of puberty rather aggressively (at points you could swear you see razor burn on Jupe’s neck), the film never feels like a cash grab. Krasinski states he made this film because he had an idea, and writing solo this time he decides to go bigger on every front.
What makes A Quiet Place Part II quite so thrilling is that while everything is bigger than last time — the world is more vast, the characters more expansive, the jumps jumpier and so on, Krasinski is clearly more interested in the story about a family, and that’s what made the first one so powerful. The struggle between survivalist dad Lee (Krasinski) and guilt-ridden daughter Regan (Simmonds) formed the emotional core of the original with the ticking time bomb of when Evelyn (Blunt) was going to drop her baby.
This time, despite deciding to split the family — Marcus (Jupe), Evelyn and baby stay in a smelting plant while Regan and newcomer Emmett (Cillian Murphy) go on a journey to find an Island — makes the film feel jarring. Krasinski and his editor Michael P. Shawver never stop cutting between the two, allowing you to feel the tension between the two stories.
Polly Morgan shoots the film with long takes, never done in ways that feel showy but more set about showing you the world, even in the action sequences there is a desire to keep things rooted in character, helped by an atmospheric and at times affectively bass-heavy score by Marco Beltrami.
Krasinski is also not afraid to look moments that made the first film so great and reprise them but with bigger moments. The first film’s floorboard nail is acknowledged towards the beginning of the film and then reprised but on a bigger, and much nastier scale, the terror ever present threat that a newborn child cannot be reasoned with is played with. The choice to sideline Emily Blunt’s character to focus on Emmett and the two senior Abbott children might feel strange but Krasinski has faith in his two young leads and rightfully so.
Simmonds is clearly the stand out of the film once again, conveying humour, emotion and a strong resolve in a way that some actor’s can barely do with the ability to speak constantly. Noah Jupe similarly gets a stronger arc this time, the story of a boy becoming a man might not seem like new ground but thanks to the expressive acting of Noah Jupe you get the sense that this is as much Marcus’ story as it is Regan’s.
The expansion of the world offers might broader storytelling and more mythology about the characters and the monsters hunting them, though at times the film seems to miss the big moments that really made that first film sing. There’s no moment, for example, as moving as “I have always loved you”, nor nothing quite as upsetting as seeing a five year old skewered by a insect alien ten minutes into your movie.
The film also falls down at times when it falls into sub-The Walking Dead; an encounter with some survivors looking like Charlie Manson and the funky bunch cult feels like it was ripped from the Whisperer arc from both Kirkman’s comics and the series.
That said, for its weird narrative choices, making it two stories cross-cutting, Krasinski never loses his focus on those two lead performers and the veteran performers ably supporting them. While the original film’s final shot was more an assurance that it’s going to be okay for the Abbotts rather than sequel bait, this one feels more like it wants to set up the third part – but even if it does, Krasinski’s level of confidence should be commended, and it’s a welcome return to nerve-shredding tension.