The release of 2018’s A Quiet Place led to the best possible results for all involved. In a world where IP is king, an original high-concept studio film managed to be a hit with audiences, serve as a breakout film for the young actors involved, and show critics that director/star John Krasinski had some Spielberg-ian moves up his sleeves. Naturally, a sequel was quickly greenlit, and after a year delay due to a Covid-19-related postponement, A Quiet Place Part II is ready to be released on audiences. The fortunate thing is how effective the film is at expanding this world without betraying the qualities that made the first work. While there’s no real reason for this film to exist beyond the success of the first, it would appear Krasinski and his team took the challenge upon themselves to deliver the goods anyway. In other words, they brought the noise.
Following an exceedingly well-made cold open depicting “Day 1,” this sequel picks up seconds after the first film’s end. Following a particular tragedy and a win against the creatures that rely on sound to track and hunt, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and the newborn baby finds themselves headed to a new shelter. Armed with some items helping to defend themselves against these otherworldly beasts, a chance encounter and new knowledge set Regan on a path to help more fight back against these predators.
If nothing else, I’m primarily impressed with how these films seem like a cinematic franchise built out of the “raptors in the kitchen” sequence from Jurassic Park. At 97 minutes (just a few minutes longer than the first), A Quiet Place Part II works as another lean thriller, relying on as much minimalism as possible to set up the plot, the stakes, various character motivations, and an understanding of the different set-piece moments on display. Even the cinematography from Polly Morgan is deceptively simple. It relies on the use of many one-ers and depictions of clear, fluid filmmaking to go along well with the effective editing by Michael P. Shawer to best emphasize the tension and thrills witnessed by multiple parties at different locations.
The Oscar-nominated sound designers and editors also return, helping the film to continue adhering to the rules established by the first film. Given the expanded role for Simmonds, a real-life deaf actress, the film really uses the unique nature of her character to the film’s advantage when it comes to mixing up how scenes play based on how the soundtrack can be utilized as another source of suspense. Add to that a better handle on the visual effects used to depict these violent creatures, and you have a film that really found itself when it comes to all of the technical aspects.
Having this under control means the major terror moments work to jolt the audience when necessary. Yes, jump scares are all over this film, much like the first. However, they rarely feel like cheats, as the audience and the characters are both experiencing a similar sense of anxiety when possible threats present themselves all of a sudden.
Even better, however, are the large-scale set-piece horror scenes, which are varied, and excellently filmed and choreographed. There are clever setups and payoffs to how a few sequences play out. The way at least three key scenes are designed shows a pretty excellent handle on lining up the outcomes for the sake of getting the best proper rise out of the audience before delivering on the crowd-pleasing results that similarly helped make the first film such a success.
Am I talking around the story, though? Not so much. It just serves as a means to get the audience to these cleverly staged horror scenarios. As I enjoyed the first film more for its filmmaking than the story, I feel about the same with the sequel. I certainly appreciate the work put in by all the major players. I would go as far as to say some are doing their best work as actors here when it comes to maintaining this high level of unease and adrenaline for a large amount of their screentime.
From a plot perspective, the goal of this film is not that much more interesting than the first. With a few plot beats seemingly lifted from The Last of Us video game series in mind (yes, I’m aware the survivalist-themed post-apocalyptic setting tends to allow for only so many story ideas), I appreciated how the emphasis didn’t go too far in exploring other evils beyond the alien threat. After ten years of The Walking Dead, there’s only so much I need to see as far as how lousy humanity becomes in a world of chaos. With this in mind, there is a key aspect that worked in ‘Part II‘s favor, and that’s the addition of Cillian Murphy.
Working as more than just a callback to his breakthrough role as “the last guy in London” in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, for good reason, Murphy brings a specific quality to his role that makes him the right person to essentially partner up with Regan for a majority of the film. While Simmonds is something of an action star in the making with her role, there’s a reluctant hero arc for Murphy that gives his character just enough complications to keep him interesting.
I do still wish these films could be about something more. Not that I need further contextualization of what the rest of the world is going through (I really appreciate the minimalism in that regard, actually), but with other horror films, there’s a tendency to make these smaller stories serve as an interesting metaphor for the times in some way. While Krasinski has stated the first film was a “love letter” to his children, I assume this film is a continuation of their growth into maturity. This only offers so much thematic heft to appreciate.
Now, that’s not to say there isn’t plenty to appreciate in the areas A Quiet Place Part II best excels at. This is a thriller first as far as putting in the work to deliver on elaborate setups for scenarios where silence is golden unless the characters want to deal with rampaging monsters head-on. Even when the clockwork structure of the action scenes feels almost too specific, it’s hard to argue with just how effective the results are at creating gripping experiences. I don’t know if Krasinski plans to remain in the realm of genre films as a director, but he indeed continues to deliver, even for a movie that didn’t have to exist. Doesn’t matter, though, as this solid sequel delivers the goods.