Updated: Jul 13
Creative thrillers that are genuinely engaging are difficult to craft, and a sequel trying to meet a bar set high can be seen as a challenge. A Quiet Place Part II (2021) may not pass its predecessor, but carries forward the foundations of the first film.
For newcomers, writer-director John Krasinski sets the scene of the dystopia he created. Krasinski, who only is seen in flashbacks from the early moments of the destruction of a sleepy rural town, continues to make a spectacle of his directorial skill. There's the redundancy of featuring the previous events of A Quiet Place (2018) to break in the early moments of the sequel, and there's no further elaboration of just as to why the ruthless alien beasts have come to Earth. There's no evidence provided to claim if this was an invasion, a crash landing, or something else; the species is never fully embellished upon either, despite their eerily intricate, flower-mouthed design shared by the Demogorgons from Stranger Things (2016).
The central narrative picks up where the antecedent leaves off as the Abbott family treks on, still coping with the loss and self-sacrifice of Lee Abbott (Krasinski). Evelyn Abbott, a world-weary mother (Emily Blunt), is left to fend for her three surviving children while fending for herself as well. Where Marcus Abbott (Noah Jupe) is set to keep himself strong for his mother and siblings, his story, as well as his mother's are positioned as "side quests" for Regan Abbott (Milicent Simmonds) on her own fearless adventure. Krasinski weaves together a layered interpretation of the deaf experience with the jarring, white-knuckle feeling of suspense. Jump scares and pulse-pounding thrills jolt through A Quiet Place II, and while the thriller is not horrifying, it genuinely knows how to create the unshakeable feeling of swelling anxiety. Breathless moments of tension are enough to stop the heart mid-beat, and Krasinski times his scares masterfully. The tightly wound astrictions that loom throughout the movie are enough to keep one on edge, uniting action with sheer unease.
The use of sound, and then contrasting it with a lack of, is excellent. Not only does it offer multiple perspectives, but the deprivation of sense also induces a rising panic. The fluctuation of sound allows one to be with Regan, and to view the world from her point of view. Punctiliously placed, the upsurging crescendo of the score and the echoless silence face off in powerful contrariety.
Cillian Murphy's unexplained latecomer is a grizzled guide for Regan and the gruff character, Emmett, is never fully known. He makes a brief appearance within the film's first act where his fleeting conversation with Regan is revisited later on, though there's nothing more really said about him, he remains cast in mystery. It's implied that he's known by the Abbotts, but the details of their relationship are declined to be particularized. Vital to the ever-persistent and unwavering Regan, Murphy is overshadowed by Simmonds' extraordinary performance. Not only does she deliver a remarkable on-screen display of a range of emotions that can be felt by the audience themselves, but she also presents the reality of hearing-impaired individuals, upholding the importance of the use of American Sign Language. The show belongs to Simmonds, and she owns every minute of it.
Krasinski's sequel prevails with its cinematography and leaves every shot to be both mesmerizing and memorable. Visual appeal aside, the sequel struggles to land itself on a solid storyline, and there is an abundance of unfinished plot points that are not stable on their own. There are a number of unidentified characters that lack the depth as to who they are, or how they arrived. Larger points of leverage in the movie are unclear and relate to other survivors who have found their own safety and civilization away from the desolated Appalachians. There's worldbuilding at hand, though it feels somewhat repetitive and disjointed. The attempt to further this ravaged antiutopia pulls at the unravels of ideas, but doesn't completely present anything new.
Setting its primary focus into two paths, A Quiet Place II is a suspenseful film that remains to justify the core of this one-of-a-kind survival story. Driven by determination, family, and bravery, the sequel balances an uneven-yet-meaningful plot atop an emotional and visually gripping tale of life, death, fear, and courage.