When last we saw the Abbott family in A Quiet Place, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and Marcus (Noah Jupe) had figured out a way to fight back against the aliens that had invaded Earth.
While the blind aliens were able to track their prey through sound, excessive aural feedback caused them to open up their head carapaces, exposing their softer insides and making them vulnerable to gunfire.
Evelyn takes full advantage of this weakness and is able to dispatch the aliens in their area with Regan’s help. But now, with husband Lee (John Krasinski) gone and a newborn baby to fend for, the Abbotts may be more in danger than ever.
They cannot stay at the farm, and so must venture forth into the world, where there are surely more aliens and, possibly, more humans. Humans who may be able to help, or who may be even more of a threat.
A Quiet Place Part II is a bit larger in scale than the first film; director and star John Krasinski kept the tensions close to the family, and the monsters very fleeting, much like Ridley Scott’s Alien never showed the creature in its entirety except in brief moments. The first film made remarkable use of sound, and Krasinski is quite skilled at building upon the dread and perfectly releasing those scares to maximum effect.
Keeping A Quiet Place intimate allowed Krasinski to avoid the world at large, and Millicent Simmonds’ Regan gave that film a unique angle on the post-apocalypse monster movie – Regan could not hear the monsters around her, but in that silence Regan found the bravery that those who could hear the creatures might not be able to achieve. Her performance in the first film complemented Krasinski’s remarkable ability to squeeze the audience with palpable fear and terror.
The rules for how to deal with these creatures are established; while they are difficult to kill, they can be killed, and Regan knows that if she can get her signal out somehow, that there may well be others out there who can be saved. But the world is populated by the survivors now, and not all of them may be friendly.
Over the protests of her mother, her brother, and Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a former family friend who is now a survivor alone in mourning, Regan decides to attempt an impossible task, forcing Emmett to follow her to try to bring her back.
John Krasinski takes bigger swings in A Quiet Place Part II. A flashback sequence to the day the aliens arrive is terrifying and thrilling, and brings all the scares of the first film to the forefront. The way Krasinski builds each moment (with a fantastic score by Marco Beltrami, returning to composing from the first film) highlights Krasinski’s skills as a director, and one particular sequence, with three separate stories intercut to maximum effect, is masterful.
It is clear that Krasinski paid attention to his Spielberg and his Hitchcock; his ability to create suspense out of simple things like an empty, airtight boiler or a walk in the woods comes right out of those master directors’ wheelhouses.
The problem with A Quiet Place Part II is that in this case familiarity does not breed contempt so much as it does diminishing returns. Unlike the first film, we have seen a lot of A Quiet Place Part II before, especially in shows like The Walking Dead and other post-apocalyptic thrillers. While the film is ambitious and larger in scope, the uniqueness that made the first one so special has been dulled.
As the film’s scope widens from the first, the small flaws of the first film grow even more apparent in the second one (it is still not clear why any couple would decide to have a child who could cry at any moment in a world where sound could kill). There is little new information about what these monsters are or where they come from, and the more acquainted we get with them, the less scary they become. John Krasinski is very good at ratcheting up the tension, but now that the audience knows what to expect, it is harder to surprise them.
While A Quiet Place Part II may not be as scary, the performances may in fact be better this time around. Emily Blunt has less to do this time, and while that cannot be helped, she is still effective in her moments, especially during a sequence where she tries to get some medicine for her son.
Noah Jupe is a few years older than he was in the last film, and considering Part II is supposed to take place mere minutes later, his growth spurt will likely distract. But Jupe is also quite good, especially during a horrific sequence early on in the film.
This is familiar ground for 28 Days Later’s Cillian Murphy. However, he is terrific here as a man who has lost everything who must decide to engage with the world again, and is offered hope when he wasn’t looking for it.
Then there is Millicent Simmonds, who gave the best performance in A Quiet Place and continues to do so in Part II. Her Regan is full of purpose and agency, and Regan will use her knowledge and ability to do what she can to help. She found strength in her father’s love, and she carries it with her here. Simmonds is fantastic, and remains the heart and soul of this franchise.
Will there be A Quiet Place 3? There is still some story to tell, and while Krasinski will write the next installment, he has given it to Jeff Nichols to direct, and it is possible a fresh pair of hands can mold new life and spirit in the next installment.
While A Quiet Place Part II is still quite good, it does not quite live up to the original, but that’s perfectly fine. There are still many powerful moments here, and Part II is a perfect return to the cinema for those looking for that Friday night thrill ride.
A QUIET PLACE PART II REVIEW SCORE: 8/10
Paramount Pictures will release A Quiet Place Part II in theaters on Friday, May 28, 2021.
Alan Cerny has been writing about film for more than 20 years, for such sites as Ain’t It Cool News, CHUD, Birth Movies Death, and ComingSoon. He is a member of the Houston Film Critics Society since 2011. STAR WARS biased. Steven Spielberg once called Alan a “very good writer” and Alan has the signed letter to prove it, so it must be true.