A Quiet Place Part II goes pretty much how you expect.
Family navigates apocalypse while having to be completely silent. Noise is made. Family runs from weird long-legged aliens. Silence again. Rinse, cycle, repeat.
This doesn’t work quite as well for sophomore director John Krasinski the way it does in part one. Although the same tension from the first film is more or less there throughout, Krasinski’s writing subtracts more than it adds. Character decisions are questionable at best – including one infuriating death scene – and there are too many ideas that are not given enough attention within the 97-minute runtime. With that being said, better to start off with what the film does right.
Part II begins with a flashback to the fateful day these noise-hating creatures crash-landed on earth. The film’s opening is essentially a recap of how the world descended into quiet hell. It also serves as a bit of world-building. It opens on the main road of small town, America. Krasinski’s Lee noisily parks his truck in front of the local convenient store for snacks – which he doesn’t have to pay for. It’s that kind of town. Up the road, his son Marcus (Noah Jupe) is playing baseball on what’s likely the only field in this town. It’s here we’re reintroduced to the gang – Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and family friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy). The stands are packed. People cheer loudly. Life is good for not another five minutes before a massive ball of fire streaks across the sky. You can guess what happens next. The scene promises a film that has recaptured the hair-raising tension from its predecessor. A promise it only kind of delivers on.
Simmonds commands the screen for every scene she is in. Her performance as the fearless Regan demands everyone else to come to her level of intensity. Her ability to volley between tenacity and empathy ring comparisons of other strong female leads in horror. I would argue that what makes Simmonds unique is her age. She was only 15 during the release of A Quiet Place (2017), the role that put her onto a wider audience after she made her screen debut in the preceding Wonderstruck (2017). For comparison, Sigourney Weaver was 28 when her iconic Ellen Ripley survived the horrors of the Nostromo in Alien (1977). Jamie Lee-Curtis, an original scream queen, survived Michael Meyers when she was 20-years-old in Halloween (1978). If you want something a little more modern, Anya Taylor-Joy was 19 when her lead performance in The Witch (2015) kickstarted her career. Simmonds has made a strong case to be the main cog in the newly announced sequel. She should be in more things.
It’s also a good thing for the movie that Regan spends most of the story with someone who counters her prowess with the flailing limbs of defeat. Cillian Murphy does what he does best. His ocean-blue eyes reek of fear and hopelessness as his character reels from the passing of his wife. Pairing his cowardice with Regan’s resolve brings an enjoyable dynamic throughout their time together.
Jupe takes advantage of what he can in his performance. His character Marcus spends most of the film seated after getting his foot caught in the jaws of a bear trap. At the very least, no one should question whether or not he can pull off a good scream. It also feels like he is the one dealing with the highest stakes in the film. His main objective is to care for his baby sibling while his mother leaves them to find medical supplies for Marcus’ wound that’s threatening infection. The baby itself should feel like a screaming fire alarm in this setting but it’s actually pretty tame considering. Nonetheless, their pairing leads to some breathless (literally) sequences. Blunt isn’t given much material to work with. She takes on a pure action role and does it well. Moving on.
Composer Marco Beltrami also deserves a shoutout. He and Krasinski are on the same page when it comes to deciding when to breathe and when to floor it. His methodical score is one of the bright spots in Part II.
The shallowness of Part II is ultimately what keeps it mediocre at best. With a film whose main concept revolves around silence equaling survival, it’s difficult not to get more than a few jump scares by just throwing some alien in the mix to make a racket. Krasinski can’t help himself in this regard. He isn’t interested in revealing any more about them than he was in the first film. They’re faceless antagonists for our heroes and that’s it. Not that this is a cardinal sin per se, but the inconsistent world-building teases for there to be more when there simply isn’t. The cinematography also feels like a missed opportunity, especially when Emmett and Regan team up for the film’s on-the-road segment. The imagery feels mostly flat and uninspiring.
Speaking of shallow, everyone sure did seem to move on from the death of Lee fairly quickly. Considering the connection Regan made with him at the end of the first film, everyone’s pretty chill about this other than a mention or two and Regan unfairly comparing Emmett to Lee. Sure, maybe they’ve lost so much already that they’ve developed a “keep going” mentality. But this is only hours after the first film and not a tear is shed for him. There is no mourning for this character that is perceived as a perfect man, one who Emmett ultimately tries to live up to. Another missed opportunity for Krasinksi and crew.
Then there’s the criminal misuse of Djimon Hounsou. The man is featured prominently in trailers and press yet doesn’t even have a name for his character. He is simply known as ‘Man on the Island.’ He has no other purpose besides delivering an intimate monologue to Emmett and providing transportation for him and Regan to a radio tower to combat an alien that has made its way to this haven-like island that has escaped the clutches of the invasion because these aliens also apparently cannot swim. Guess they never thought one could stow away on a boat. Hounsou’s departure is frustrating and feels borderline disrespectful. He is also the only Black character with a speaking role, so do with that what you will. Hounsou is an Academy Award-nominated actor who deserves more than the throwaway scrap roles Hollywood offers him. I recommend watching Constantine (2005) for a deeper appreciation for his talents. Although this is also a supporting role, it is leagues better and shows the enigmatic charm he’s capable of.
It could just be because I’ve been writing a lot about sequels lately, but having a film serve as a bridge to the next entry just feels incoherent. It feels closer to television. The opening third of this is a reaction from the previous episode while the ending serves as a launching pad for the next episode with its abrupt ending. It just feels incomplete in film.
The movie will no doubt make its way through the box office though and Paramount will follow the money to another sequel. The usual winners will win again for putting out average content. Here’s to hoping for a more thoughtful sequel.