Evaluation: ‘A Quiet Place Component II’ is (shhh! ) a good enough sequel
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When “A Quiet Place” was released in 2018, its high-concept premise grew to become a terrific word-of-mouth hook, when “word-of-mouth” makes sense for a movie that demanded total peaceful atmosphere from its characters and viewers alike. Here was a diabolically smart and scary thriller that turned sound itself into a weapon: a trip de force of shush-pense. It was a movie that cried out — OK, demanded in a whisper — to appear on the big screen, provided you didn’t dare clear your throat, munch popcorn or uncrinkle that bag of Sour Patch Kids. 3 years later, the hotly anticipated “A Quiet Place Component II” is before all of us, and it, too, is a film to give you second thoughts about breathing too heavily in a theater — though not really, of course , for entirely exactly the same reasons.
Focused, like its predecessor, simply by John Krasinski (who furthermore wrote the script, this time without his prior collaborators Bryan Woods and Scott Beck), “A Quiet Location Part II” was locations to open last March prior to COVID-19 shutdowns began. The release was delayed for more than a year, and as a result, one of the very last movies some of my press colleagues saw in a theater in 2020 is one of the initial movies I’ve seen in a theater in 2021. For anybody anxiously returning to the multiplex after a long absence, you can find certainly less nerve-rattling motion picture options, though also less enjoyable ones. Sitting disguised and vaccinated in an underpopulated screening room, I felt pretty safe and even satisfied as the lights went down, falling me into a harrowing yet oddly comforting world associated with screaming adults, screeching creatures and buildings being torn asunder.
Those people sounds — the last you will hear for a while, notwithstanding the particular dread-inducing shudders of Marco Beltrami’s score — go with a tense opening flashback to the terrible day those monsters first arrived. Within the first film, Krasinski held his creatures off-screen just for teasingly long stretches; this time around, knowing we’ve already seen them in action, he unleashes them from the get-go. The calm of a small upstate New York town is shattered by the arrival of these fast-moving extraterrestrial demons with their Venus-flytrap teeth, armored bodies, lethal claws and suggestively gooey ear canals. Amid the particular unfolding chaos, Lee plus Evelyn Abbott (real-life husband and wife Krasinski and Emily Blunt) narrowly escape with their children in a harrowing smash-and-slash activity sequence that provides an early clue about the monsters’ extraordinary influence of hearing.
From there the story flashes forward towards the triumphant final moments from the first “Quiet Place, ” in which the surviving Abbotts recognize the monsters’ greatest strength might in fact be their particular greatest weakness. And so begins this sequel proper, since the now-widowed Evelyn and her kids — Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and an unnamed newborn baby — venture uneasily over and above their upstate New York country home, armed with guns and sound equipment: They’re literally amped for action. Still, they virtually walk on tiptoe, their particular bare feet cracked plus bandaged (a grimly convincing touch), lest they rouse the monsters’ attention. But monsters aren’t all they have to fear in a world where evil — another phrase for it is indifference — often wears a disquietingly human face.
That’s a good if obvious insight plus a legitimate premise for a sequel, even if the execution here eventually feels more prosaic than inspired. The strength of the first “Quiet Place” lay in its callous concentration and pared-to-the-bone storytelling: By turning every creak, crash and unstifled shout into a potentially fatal mistake, the movie cut the exposition to a minimum and held its focus on the minutiae of the Abbotts’ moment-by-moment success. Sure, some of it fell apart on closer inspection (a baby, in this economy? ), but Krasinski was a deft enough storyteller to keep you fully in the moment with a canny mix of Spielbergian pathos and Hitchcockian concision.
The first film told all of us nothing about the aliens’ roots and, apart from its shivery prologue, “A Quiet Place Part II” tells us little more. What it gives us instead is a highly watchable, significantly wobbly gloss on “War of the Worlds” that, for many its atmosphere and visible intricacy — well understood in Polly Morgan’s abundantly textured cinematography (shot upon 35-millimeter film) and Jess Gonchor’s corpse-strewn, twisted-metal scenery — feels incomplete simply by design. Krasinski builds concern as capably as ever, sometimes with teasing, you-know-this-will-be-important-later details, sometimes by crosscutting showily between parallel threads, and always with an invaluable assist from Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl’s exquisitely chiseled soundscape. Inevitably, though, the relentless tension and close-quarters intimacy that he established in the very first film can’t help but slacken under the weight of a swiftly expanding narrative.
Chalk it up to the growing pains of an accidental franchise: “Part II” feels caught between two conflicting modes, a tightly focused family drama and a more expansive vision of post-apocalyptic decay. (Presumably there will be more of the latter in the third “Quiet Place” movie, which will be written and directed by Jeff Nichols. ) Still, this one does provide an effective end-of-days taster as fresh personalities and new battlegrounds are introduced. At key points we are ushered in to the hidden enclaves where surviving remnants of humanity have retreated — one warm and inviting, the other not really much.
Stranded somewhere within the two is an old family friend, Emmett (a gravely haunted Cillian Murphy), who’s lost his own loved ones and will be offering the Abbotts temporary refuge in an abandoned steel factory. In this booby-trapped warehouse where clanging metal furnaces can become a shelter one minute and a trap the next, the characters begin a debate about their responsibility, if any, to connect with other survivors out there. While Regan insists that they must and believes that all is not lost, Emmett adopts a more isolationist stance: “The people that are left … they’re not worth saving, ” he growls.
For those inclined to see political subtext into the “Quiet Place” movies — several interpreted the first one as a right-wing allegory about white non-urban Americans pointedly robbed of their total freedom of speech — Murphy’s performance as a shaggy, gun-toting libertarian hiding within rubble of the Rust Seatbelt will provide hot-take fodder aplenty. Within this clash of moral legal documents, Emmett is positioned, a bit too appropriately, as an unworthy father figure adjacent to that deceased paragon having to do with virtue Lee Abbott — who, as Regan increasingly reminds everyone, never quited fighting for humanity to his noble death.
If that seems a touch self-serving on Krasinski’s section — even from over the grave, he can not resist varnishing his character’s heroism — he’s more than wise enough not to be deprived of sight of this movie’s new hero. It isn’t our own brave survivor (an inexplicably underused Djimon Hounsou) are known for offers an useful counterweight to successfully Emmett’s cynicism. Nor is that Evelyn or Marcus, created Blunt and especially young Jupe give their characters situations of death-defying courage now. No, the hero totally free Regan, who — your Simmonds, the remarkable stroller who plays her — is deaf, a condition of confers on her both a helpful unshakable authority and a campanilla strategic advantage.
Regan is her enemies’ antithesis in every respect, not very close because they can hear and she or he cannot, but because of the near-superhuman conviction with which she stands upright against them. Her mesmerizing presence sustains you via the unresolved final moments at “A Quiet Place Facet II, ” a viscerally effective endgame that however seems content to reiterate aerobic build on its predecessor’s revelations. You’ll probably exhale from relief all the same. A gunman ? serial killer ? ? sniper hook is a killer filling device, even if it registers, in such a case, as a somewhat muted match.
‘A Quiet Place Step II’
In English and so American Sign Language in English subtitles
Rated: PG-13, for terror, violence and also bloody/disturbing images
Running time: 1 hour, 40 mins.
Still having: Starts Would probably 28 in general release exactly where theaters are open