Most of the pictures Hollywood studios turn out these days are based on previously existing intellectual property – sequels, remakes, films based on comic books or best sellers, etc. It's become exceedingly rare to get a big “original” movie. A Quiet Place was one of the few we've gotten in recent years. Since it was a huge it, we now of course get a sequel. And not just a sequel, but a sequel that ends with the setup for another sequel. Despite plenty of justified reasons to be skeptical about the follow-up to a film that told its story perfectly the first time, A Quiet Place Part II works overall, albeit with a few caveats.
The film opens with a flashback to the day the aliens arrived (presumably so writer/director/star John Krasinski could return for a few minutes). In some ways, this is the most intense part, thanks to a stunning sequence -- used as the teaser trailer – with Evelyn (Emily Blunt) trying to avoid the out-of-control bus that's speeding toward her car. Then we jump to the seconds right after the previous movie's ending. Evelyn, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and the new baby have to flee the farm. This means leaving the sand path behind and placing themselves in even more danger.
The family eventually arrives at an abandoned factory where old acquaintance Emmett (Cillian Murphy) is holed up. He doesn't want to help them, despite Evelyn's pleas. After Regan goes off on her own to find the source of a radio signal the group has detected, Emmett doesn't really have much choice. She's too vulnerable out there alone. He searches for her, while Evelyn and Marcus deal with the creatures lurking around the factory.
A Quiet Place Part II has way more of the monsters than the first one did. A sequence in which Regan gets cornered by one in a train car is eerie, as is a scene where Evelyn confronts one in the factory. Whereas the initial film showed the aliens mostly in flashes until the very end, the sequel moves them front and center. This allows for bigger set pieces and more elaborate bits of action. Krasinski makes sure to keep the idea that silence is key to survival, though, so that intimate kind of horror is still accounted for.
As skillfully staged and entertaining as the scary scenes are, the movie still didn't give me the non-stop tension the original did. There are more characters this time around, and more settings, as well. Opening things up like that takes away the claustrophobic element that was so personally unsettling when added to everything else. It was the cherry on top of an already-scary picture. When A Quiet Place was over, I felt every muscle in my body relax. That's how tense I was. This time, the horror beats provide thrills, yet never invoked the same visceral impact. A lack of novelty value in the “stay quiet” premise may help account for that.
Like the creatures, Millicent Simmonds is more front and center, too. The young actress has such a wonderfully expressive face that you can't take your eyes off her. She conveys the terror of facing hostile aliens, and simultaneously gives Regan a newfound sense of determination. Several characters comment on how much Regan starts to embody her late father. That could have been mere dialogue explanation, except that Simmonds modifies her performance so that we notice it too. This exceptional young actress is the MVP of A Quiet Place Part II.
Blunt is just as strong this time around, and Cillian makes a fine addition. Nevertheless, the focus on the latter proves to be an odd choice. The primary arc in A Quiet Place belonged to Krasinski's character, who healed a fractured bond with his daughter through an unfathomable scenario. With him gone, A Quiet Place Part II's primary arc should belong to Evelyn, who now has to raise three children and survive aliens without an adult partner for support. Instead, the story brings in Emmett, another male whose arc -- involving things he regrets doing/not doing -- is the story's heart. Removing the emphasis from Evelyn feels unfair.
At the end of the day, A Quiet Place Part II proves sufficiently satisfying, despite a couple key areas that make it slightly less potent than its predecessor. Excellent work from the cast members combines with inventive (if not entirely terrifying) creature attacks to make this a good sequel to an absolutely great movie.
out of four
A Quiet Place Part II is rated PG-13 for terror, violence, and bloody/disturbing images. The running time is 1 hour and 37 minutes.