The original A Quiet Place leads a mysterious double life in the memories of its audiences. Those who caught it in cinemas recall the visceral thrill of sitting in a crowded theatre surrounded by hundreds of other patrons all holding their breath in a tense, almost reverential hush. For them, the experience of A Quiet Place was a cinematic spectacle that was almost physically draining because of its sustained tension. For those who saw it at home, the plot-holes, clichés and inconsistencies were a little harder to ignore. With the arrival of a sequel, writer/director John Krasinski has the opportunity to expand upon the universe that he has created, and to reassert his claim to being a great genre storyteller. So how successful is he?
A Quiet Place: Part II opens on an expertly crafted sequence. The eerie silence of a deserted town is shattered by a truck door slammed by John Krasinki’s character, Lee. This tells us that we are in the before times, when small-town niceties and little league baseball games were still the order of the day. It’s also the first introduction we have to the stellar sound design provided by Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl. In their hands, the juxtaposition of tense silence and heart-stopping noise is a constant, terrifying companion. An explosive action scene promises not only that the old world is gone, but also that this sequel will be bolder, faster-paced and more expansive than its predecessor.
When we flash forward to the present day, we find that the family, led by formidable mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) are on the move. They run into an old neighbour-turned-reclusive-survivalist in the form of Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who reluctantly shares his hideout with them. However, when they manage to pick up a mysterious radio broadcast from what may be another group of survivors, daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) begins to think that she might have the answer to fixing everything. It’s an admirable heightening of the stakes for a sequel. It expands the story so that it is no longer laser-focused on the single family unit in a single location. The film also sprinkles in additional dangers in the form of other humans turned monstrous through desperation.
Another impressive feat that Krasinski pulls out of the bag for the follow-up is to split the family up. With multiple story arcs happening simultaneously, the plot jumps between each, creating more opportunities for action and maintaining a relentless, dizzying pace. Juggling multiple storylines like this is a delicate game, but Krasinski proves adept. Some of the most edge-of-your-seat moments come when several narrative threads are reaching their thrilling conclusions at the same time. As a result of this, A Quite Place: Part II feels a lot more kinetic and dynamic than its predecessor. Though not quite the Aliens to A Quiet Place‘s Alien, this sequel certainly seems brasher and punchier.
There are no performances that are lacking, and the two younger actors Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are especially commendable, with a lot more screen time this go around. However, it is definitely the quieter, character-driven scenes that are the less engaging. This may well be a result of the sequel failing to entirely dispel criticisms that the original faced: an over-reliance on post-apocalyptic clichés.
It’s not just that the characters are archetypes, but also that their motivations and the dynamics between them are also a bit too predictable. Despite his initial misgivings, Cillian Murphy’s Emett falls so completely into the role of protective father that he seems to be there simply to plug the gap left by the absence of Krasinski’s Lee. The two characters even share some of the same fashion sense and penchant for standard-issue ‘end of the world’ beards. As a result of this reliance on tropes, A Quiet Place might be doomed to be simply an excellent example of the sub-genre, rather than a strikingly original take on it.
A Quiet Place: Part II is certainly a film to see on the big screen. The excellent sound design and highly textural cinematography of Polly Morgan combine to create an immersive 35mm world that deserves to be experienced as intended. Krasinski has pulled off a very strong sequel, upping the stakes and quickening the pace without neglecting the human story that made the original so compelling. With its reliance on over-familiar themes, it might not sway the die-hard naysayers. However, fans will find that, built around the same pin-drop silences and knife-sharp tension as the original, A Quiet Place Part II manages to be bigger, bolder and at times even more terrifying.