Movie Review: A Quiet Place Part II
By Matthew Huntley
June 6, 2021
Much like its predecessor, “A Quiet Place Part II” proves satisfying simply by being a solid example of its type. It’s a lean, straightforward horror-thriller that’s credible, atmospheric and sometimes emotional. By the end, it’s also quite riveting. Perhaps it doesn’t bring more to the table other than what’s required, but it entertains us without jerking us around, with the latter quality being particularly noteworthy since the genre is often prone to the opposite.
If you’ve seen “A Quiet Place,” then you know the story and why this series is called “A Quiet Place.” In a bleak, dystopian present, an alien race of giant, bug-like creatures has invaded Earth, which are predatory and hostile by nature. While it isn’t clear if these ferocious beasts actually eat people, they certainly rip them apart with their claws and razor-sharp teeth any chance they get. The monsters have no eyes but they have a supreme sense of hearing and the only way to avoid their detection is stay as quiet as possible. Survivors have adapted to their grim new world by actively walking around barefoot; treading on sand instead of gravel or rocks whenever possible; using sign language instead of talking; and setting up protective perimeters with booby traps and sound-proof hideouts.
All of this was introduced to us in the first film, which ended on an equally tragic and hopeful note, and “Part II” picks up right where “Part I” left off, although the opening sequence is a flashback to when the aliens first showed their ugly faces, causing explosions in the sky and attacking humble American towns like Spring Creek, where, on this now infamous “Day 1,” the Abbott family was calmly enjoying a community baseball game before suddenly running for their lives along with the rest of the planet.
Flash forward to “Day 474,” when the remaining members of the Abbott clan have survived the latest alien attack after discovering its Achilles heel. Daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who’s deaf, found that if her hearing aid transmits a certain high-pitched frequency, the creature’s protective outer skull opens uncontrollably, exposing its brain and leaving it ripe to take a bullet. That’s when mom Evelyn (Emily Blunt) blasts it with a shotgun, saving Regan, oldest son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and her newborn baby. Dad Lee (John Krasinski), you may recall, sacrificed himself earlier and now the Abbotts must move from their current refuge to a safer location, ideally one the creatures don’t know about.
To be sure, the way “A Quiet Place” ended was pleasing and sufficient, and the story didn’t exactly demand to be continued. But given the film’s unexpected box-office success, a sequel became inevitable. Fortunately, writer-director Krasinski (who also helmed the original) finds a way to compromises the unnecessary air of “Part II” with a narrative that allows us to learn more about the current world and how survivors continue to persist, and to connect with the characters on a deeper level. The film engages us despite not being essential.
When the story resumes, Evelyn leads her charges, with an amplifier and oxygen tank in hand, to an old steel factory, which appears to be abandoned. However, this makeshift compound is already being occupied by Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a once-upon-a-time family friend who always seemed to be envious of Lee. Emmett has set his own traps and has the Abbotts in his cross hairs before he realizes they’ve found a way to kill the creatures. Nevertheless, and in spite of poor Marcus being brutally injured, Emmett tells them they can’t stay in his hideout. His reasons are understandable and extend from the shame he’s already feeling for not having been able to keep his own family alive.
Things change, however, after Regan and Marcus pick up a radio signal playing Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” on a constant loop. Regan thinks it’s a message from other survivors subliminally instructing listeners to come to a nearby island for safety, and so she devises a scheme to sneak off and find its source. Her hope is to broadcast her implant’s high-frequency signal from the same radio tower and make it possible for anyone to harness it and therefore defeat the creatures on a massive scale.
When Evelyn learns of Regan’s departure, she beseeches Emmett to bring her back, despite his reservations, and soon it’s his and Regan’s teaming up and navigating to the island, while trying to survive not only the creatures but also a group of savage humans, that becomes the movie’s central plot engine. Meanwhile, Evelyn must trek back to town for supplies in order to treat Marcus, who faces his own challenges amidst trapping himself in a bunker with the baby and limited oxygen.
As I mentioned, the movie is fairly straightforward and “A Quiet Place Part II” inevitably lacks the novelty and intrigue of the first film. There were times, even, when it seemed like Krasinski’s screenplay was desperate to give the characters something to do rather than the movie as a whole feeling like it had a purpose. And unlike “Part I,” “Part II” more often succumbs to conventional horror devices such as loud, sudden crescendos, cheesy gore, and characters showing up in just the nick of time to save each other.
Still, “Part II” avoids becoming flat because it convinces us the characters merely pushing forward, surviving, and taking things as they come is the story, and we care about the characters so much that their simply navigating their dire circumstances is enough to hold our attention. Our instincts tell us there should a greater, overarching conflict in place and a more deliberate plot that involves all the players at the same time, but the movie gets us to believe that in a world such as this, everyone is bound to have their own struggles to overcome and this perspective softens our thinking that “something more significant and collective needs to be happening.”
What also helps is Krasinski continuing to prioritize the human and emotional elements, which keep the story grounded and relatable. He often pauses the action and plot for quiet character exchanges and we appreciate the trust and communication that builds between Regan and Emmett and then later on between Emmett and a fellow survivor (Djimon Hounsou). Their plight become important to us so that when everything eventually comes to a head during the final scene, which is highly manipulative yet effective, there’s a lot at stake and we’re arguably on the edge of our seats. Plus, at a trim 96 minutes, the movie ends at just the right time. Krasinski uses the same approach that worked so well for the first film in that he keeps it short, direct, and to the point.
Should there be a “A Quiet Place Part III”? I’m thinking no and that this story has run its course. Viewers are smart enough to know what happens from here on out and there’s also no need for a prequel that explains where the aliens came from because, in this case, not knowing makes things more interesting. The filmmakers should just let the series be. They’ve proven with both films they can tell a story that’s taut and engaging but they should now apply their talents elsewhere. Just as it is for the characters in “A Quiet Place,” it’s important for them to push forward and venture somewhere different.