Starring: Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns), Cillian Murphy (Sunshine), Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck), Noah Jupe (Honey Boy), Djimon Hounsou (Shazam!), John Krasinski (Jack Ryan)
Writer/Director: John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)
Runtime: 1 hour 37 minutes
Release Date: 28th May (US), 4th June (UK)
A Quiet Place was a pretty good movie, wasn’t it? Yes, it was overhyped at the time and the writing left a lot to be desired when it came to logic, but it had a compelling premise packed with potential, great performances, solid direction, and tension so taut you could strum it like a deathly nervous guitarist. Whilst it ended in a manner that left the door open for sequels, it didn’t demand one and stood well enough on its own as a simple tale of a family trying to survive in a world where any sound could lead to your demise. With that said, A Quiet Place Part II is a solid enough follow-up that matches the quality of its predecessor in every way, but ultimately can’t help but feel insubstantial in comparison.
After an impressive prologue flashback that unfortunately loses some impact when you know everyone important makes it out OK, Part II picks up right where the first film left off and continues almost seamlessly from there. One of the great strengths of A Quiet Place was its simple and contained story, focusing in on the characters and letting environmental storytelling tell you what you needed to know about the world and its rules. The sequel, meanwhile, takes on a more adventurous story reminiscent of Children of Men or The Last of Us, traipsing beyond the farmhouse setting of the original and exploring more of this post-apocalypse. There’s some interesting world building as it establishes what other fates befell humanity outside of the Abbott family, but none of it is explored in much detail beyond the bare bones necessary to serve the plot.
When you actually get down to the bones of it, Part II does very little to actually move the story forward, ending on a note almost identical to its predecessor in what’s more of an extrapolation of the first film rather than a brand-new tale. That said, John Krasinski’s direction remains strong throughout, with excellent pacing that keeps the film breezy whilst slowing down at all the right moments to keep you on tender hooks. Everything that worked about the first film is here intact, but that’s all it really is: the same scares and tricks, just slightly bigger and in slightly different scenarios.
The first film may have sold itself on the star power of celebrity couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, but the real breakout star of A Quiet Place was Millicent Simmonds as Regan. She delivered a nuanced and heart-breaking performance, all without any verbal communication, creating an iconic character who just happened to be deaf. Simmonds is given centre stage in the sequel and continues to impress, playing a more mature and proactive Regan that firmly eschews so many stereotypes about disabled characters in blockbusters. She is partnered up with Cillian Murphy as the reclusive survivor Emmett for much of the film and, whilst the character isn’t given a great deal of depth, his performance is solid and his strained relationship with Regan is endearing as they learn to trust and communicate.
Blunt and Noah Jupe are mostly relegated to a B-plot after the first act, which plays out as just a rehash of the first film in a new location, but they do the best they can with what material they have. There are a lot more human characters this time around, but they are mostly perfunctory roles. Krasinski’s role as Lee Abbott being relegated to the prologue makes sense, but it’s odd to see so many great character actors be given blink-and-you’ll-miss-them roles. Scoot McNairy and Okieriete Onaodowan show up for one scene each as a bandit and a cop respectively (McNairy doesn’t even get a line), whilst Djimon Hounsou is at least given something of a character for what little time he has on screen. Seriously, Hollywood: can we let Hounsou play more than sidekicks, henchmen and other incidental characters? Yeah, he’s great at being menacing or spouting exposition, but he’s worth far more than that.
On a technical level, Part II is an on par with its first entry as it is narratively. The cinematography is strong throughout with moody lighting and some iconic-looking frames. The use of tracking cameras in the prologue works especially well in ramping up the tension, culminating in a spectacular in-car shot as Blunt attempts to escape the chaos of the first alien attack. The production design continues to mostly rely on expected iconography from post-apocalypse stories, though there continues to be nice little nods to how the world has adapted to minimise noises. However, it’s the sound design where the film really places its focus and makes every crunch of footsteps or turning of a doorknob drip with intensity. Marco Beltrami’s score this time around feels mostly reused from the first film’s themes, but it’s still effective and used sparingly; as before, the scariest moments are those that have as little audio as possible.
A Quiet Place Part II feels more like an expansion pack than a full sequel, reusing assets to tell a brief epilogue that doesn’t move the story forward very far. It doesn’t do anything particularly worse than the first film, but neither does it do anything truly better, and that can’t help but make it feel like a disappointment. It really is just more of the same, and if that’s all you’re after there is an enjoyable 90-minute horror romp to be had here, but it does very little to justify itself as a new experience. If this franchise is going to keep going, it needs to find a new angle or change up the formula before it becomes completely predictable. That seems to be on the cards, with a spin-off written directed by Mud and Midnight Special helmsman Jeff Nichols currently set for release in 2023, and hopefully that fresh perspective will breathe some new life into the series. Part II really needed to be the Aliens to the first film’s Alien, but it’s instead more of an Alien 3: it sticks to the basics with some interesting new concepts, but it’s not developed enough to be anything more than adequately satisfying.
FINAL VERDICT: 6/10