In 2018, “The Office” funny guy John Krasinski blew moviegoers away, but not with big explosions and noisy set pieces. Instead, what made Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” stand out was its toned down approach – maximizing fear and tension while minimizing sound and speech, delivering one of the most unique moviegoing experiences of the decade.
Now, Krasinski is back to continue the story in “A Quiet Place Part II,” and the groundbreaking achievements show no signs of slowing down. This sequel stretches the boundaries of tension like never before, and while some may view this as “more of the same,” I’m deciding to call it “better of the same.”
The film begins with a 10-minute prequel, showing life in small-town America before the mysterious event that set the first film into motion occurs. From the moment the aliens descend upon the earth, the tension never lets up. With excellently-choreographed monster encounters and new and inventive ways to deal with a world gone silent, “Part II” does nothing but build on its predecessor.
As with most sequels, the hardest part is telling a compelling story that doesn’t seem contrived or lean too much into fan service. “Part II” understands that beyond the monsters or flashy special effects, its characters are the number one priority, even though this sequel doubled the budget of the first film. With that in mind, it’s even more impressive that Krasinski and Co. never settle for lazy, CGI-driven battles instead of intimate character moments.
There is a certain gritty realness to the action and tension here that feels solid and tangible. Krasinski has a way of weaving dual storylines, with each delivering the same emotional impact, and their ability to mirror each other in spirit thanks to visual cues is impressive to say the least. It’s clear the writer-director is maturing as a filmmaker, and the choices he is making show an up-and-coming director who has “it” and is competent enough to rise above the pressure of leading a franchise. The first film felt small and intimate, and now with the world opening up we not only get to see beyond the farm, but also get a glimpse at his knack for exceptional world-building.
Outside the familiarity of their home, the Abbot family must fend for themselves. This time, though, monsters from space aren’t the only dangers waiting for them. Once again, Millicent Simmonds crushes it as Regan, the hearing-impaired daughter, taking on the trauma from the first film and focusing it into her performance. She was the breakout star of the first film, and is no less remarkable here – she certainly will be one to watch. Noah Jupe, as Marcus, takes more center stage as well, with his character having a bit more of a “coming of age” slant, now forced to be the man of the proverbial house. The growth of the two eldest Abbott children is the core of the film; their journey to safety is also a journey of self-discovery in a world where their father is no longer able to impart his wisdom. Thematically and visually connected, the siblings’ bond is beautifully realized onscreen. Emily Blunt and Cillian Murphy complete the main cast and are as reliable as ever, with Murphy in particular giving a layered and emotional performance.
Krasinski shows that another of his many strengths is the ability to surround himself with talented people on set, as new cinematographer Polly Morgan stands out. Having a lot of the attacks happen in broad daylight is terrifying, but when Morgan gets to roll up her sleeves and shoot the basement scenes and the standout climactic battle, coupled with Krasinski’s writing, the new horror element of claustrophobia never looked so good.
A horror film such as this may find it hard to subvert the tropes it naturally falls into, and while Krasinki and company make a valiant effort, there are still a few things that stand out as problematic, namely the characters doing insane things that are in no way established with that character. The result is a few scenes in the final act that feel forced and shoehorned to drive the plot forward, slowing it down just enough to raise your eyebrows and wonder if it was all too good to be true. Fortunately for all of us, the ending sticks the landing, leaving you gasping for breath and once again wanting more.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is now playing in theaters.
Film critic and member of the North Carolina Film Critic Association.