A Quiet Place Part II (2020)
Silence is Not Enough.
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Over the past twelve or so months, the cinema has been a quiet place due to the ongoing global pandemic. That’s changing, however, with the return of tentpole films. One such release is John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part II, which has been delayed by 15 months because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But, with cinemas around the world slowly reopening their doors and welcoming back patrons, now seems to be the right time for Hollywood studios to test the waters. A Quiet Place 2 comes with the promise to reignite the movie-going experience, bringing about the same amount of unsettling atmosphere — which the original pic was hailed for — nerve-rattling chills and gnarly monsters. And it generally succeeds as a worthy continuation, the film heightening the viewer’s senses through astute sound design and assured direction, returning writer-director Krasinski reminding us why the theatre can be such an immersive and enthralling place.
2018’s A Quiet Place ended on a banger; it saw Emily Blunt’s Evelyn staring down the camera holding a shotgun after realizing how to take down the blind, armor-skinned creatures with hypersensitive hearing. It was an applaud-worthy finale and a great way to close the film. So, we probably didn’t need this sequel — the original was strong enough as a stand-alone sci-fi horror, one that would be talked about for years to come. Yet here we are.
This second installment opens moments after the first — you can literally watch the two movies together, given that they’re so interconnected. We’re dropped right back into that ravaged, ruined landscape, where most of the human population has been decimated by the toothy creatures who have plunged the world into a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Matriarch Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) are still reeling from the death of their father Lee (John Krasinski), who sacrificed himself to save his family and the life of his and Evelyn’s newborn child.
We then flashback to a year before the events of the previous film (Day Zero), where we see the arrival of the menacing alien threat. This opener packs a punch; Krasinski gives us a tight and edgy, suspenseful introduction to the terrifying beasties and the pandemonium caused when they, very quickly, ravage the Abbott’s small country hometown. This nerve-shredding prologue also shows off the film’s technical bravado. Presented as a series of intercutting long takes, the audio dropping in and out as the perspective shifts between different members of the Abbott family, we witness the hellish chaos unfold; fireballs fall from the sky, arachnid-like monsters leap through the air to snatch up hapless fleeing humans, cars smash, and shop fronts are demolished. It’s hands-down the best portion of the film.
We then jump back to the present day, where the remaining Abbott survivors are forced to retreat from their home and find sanctuary elsewhere, searching for more human communities and a place to seek refuge. They bring along a portable guitar amplifier and microphone to fend off any alien threat, seeing as the family has just discovered that the creatures are vulnerable to high-frequency audio feedback generated via Regan’s cochlear implant. While creeping through an abandoned steel factory, the Abbotts bump into distrustful survivalist Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a former friend of Lee’s. He reluctantly takes them to his bunker beneath the foundry, where he’s transformed an old furnace into a makeshift shelter.
While hiding out, Marcus and Regan discover a distant radio signal playing Jack Lawrence’s ‘Beyond the Sea’ on loop. After some deciphering, they deduce that the song might be a message being sent by distant survivors who may be calling out to anyone who’s left ‘beyond the sea’, the sound originating from a radio tower on a nearby island. Regan, hoping to locate a safe-haven, ventures out alone on a dangerous passage to find the colony. When Evelyn realizes that her daughter has gone missing, she prompts Emmett to go after her, Evelyn imploring him to find Regan and bring her back. All the while, Evelyn and Marcus (who’s injured his leg on a nasty bear trap) are forced to stay behind in the metalworks, fending off any creatures that are still prowling the area.
Based on characters and a story conceived by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski — who also produces and has a brief cameo in the film — A Quiet Place Part II expands on the intriguing premise of the previous film. It broadens the story in successful ways and enriches the ideas of its predecessor, exploring themes of hope, community, isolation, and survival. The narrative, this time around, focuses predominantly on the Abbott children and this imbues the proceedings with a solid emotional core. A Quiet Place 2 is a sort of coming-of-age story, commenting on the power the next generation has to make the world a better place. Both Regan and Marcus are forced to step up to protect their elders, which is a contrast to the former film. It’s the type of movie that sees the siblings take the mantle off the adults — perhaps a mechanism to propel the franchise forward. Either way, it works.
Krasinski draws solid turns from his cast, chiefly the young stars. Despite having minimal dialogue, the film’s characters shine. Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck Rose (2017), is particularly impressive as Regan, who almost shoulders the film. She’s given an empowering role, and the young actress presents Regan as a bolder and more confident person who uses her disability as a strength and weapon; she’s effectively the lead in the sequel. Similarly, Noah Jupe, Wonder (2017), delivers a noteworthy turn as Marcus and also gets the chance to play hero this time around. Reprising her role, Emily Blunt provides that big-name presence but has less to do in this second offering — even so, she’s excellent when on screen. Cillian Murphy, Inception (2010), is the most notable newcomer to the series and brings nuance to the conflicted, cynical, and embittered Murphy, while Djimon Hounsou, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), adds gravitas in his small part as leader of an outpost of island survivors.
On a technical level, A Quiet Place Part II is impressive. The film showcases some taut, carefully calibrated edge-of-your-seat action-suspense set pieces. The use of sound, particularly silence, is commendable throughout and a real feature. The audience is often plunged into complete silence to experience certain moments alongside the hearing-impaired Regan, which gives us a unique perspective on the action, the viewer realizing how scary silence can truly be. And this insight into deafness genuinely elevates the tension by a notch or two.
Similarly, the uneasy score by Marco Beltrami, The Shallows (2016), is used intelligently to generate fear and distress rather than cheap jump scares, and the sound design by Ethan Van der Ryn, Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and Erik Aadahl, Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), is nothing short of exemplary. VFX supervisor Scott Farrar and Jason Snell’s ILM effects team do a fantastic job, too, mainly with the feral extra-terrestrial creatures, who are featured heavily in this second serving and interact with more complex elements like water. Additionally, the detailed production design by Jess Gonchor (who regularly collaborates with the Coen Brothers) fittingly expands the post-invasion world.
Concluding yet again quite abruptly, but on a hopeful and optimistic note, Krasinski has set the stage for a potential third chapter. Offering anxiety-inducing thrills aplenty, A Quiet Place Part II is a well-acted, slickly-crafted piece of cinema and a faithful follow-up — even if its existence is wholly unnecessary. But with audiences around the world flocking to see A Quiet Place 2 in theatres and the film currently boasting the biggest U.S. debut of the pandemic era thus far, it’s clear that this genre-bending series is going to make a lot of noise.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Stu Cachia (S-Littner)