Synopsis: Forced to venture into the unknown, The Abbott family realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.
Stars: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Djimon Hounsou, Wayne Duvall, Okieriete Onaodowan, Scoot McNairy
Director: John Krasinski
Running Length: 97 minutes
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: Even before this bugger of a pandemic arrived on our shores and fairly quickly shuttered businesses, not to mention effectively cancelling the summer movie season, a great number of people were saying that theaters were on the decline. The streaming services were offering up faster ways to watch movies at home, and it was becoming easier than ever to get the entertainment you wanted at a far lower price than you would if you went to the cinema. Plus, watching from the comfort of your living room meant the only person you had to worry about kicking your seat, obnoxiously using their cell phone during a movie, or eating loudly would be your significant other, friend, or family member and not a random stranger you didn’t have the courage to silence.
At first, I found it strange to watch a film I knew was meant for the big screen on a smaller scale in my home theater but eventually I got accustomed to it like many people did. You could see where the idea that maybe theaters weren’t as in-demand as on-demand would be coming from…but then a movie like A Quiet Place Part II comes out and you’re reminded that going to the movies, and the right kind of movie, is the best kind of communal event. Now, I can only guess at this because I saw this sequel to the 2018 blockbuster in a Dolby Theater with about 10 other members of the press, but I would wager a bet that if you saw this in a packed theater (as packed as social distancing could be) you’d feel the same way. The energy the film creates is tangible and I don’t think it’s simply because it was the first one I’d seen in a theater in over a year.
It sounds silly now, but I was almost nervous my senses would be too overwhelmed to take the theatrical experience after all this time, but I clearly needed no slow re-introduction. Thankfully, the film doesn’t waste any time, either. If by some chance you’re reading this and haven’t seen the original, fair warning that spoilers are ahead because it’s impossible to review the sequel without talking about a significant plot development at the end of the first film. No major spoilers for the second chapter will be shared but I strongly suggest you don’t see this one before you have caught up with the film that scared the beejebus out of audiences three years ago and fast-tracked a follow-up set to arrive May of 2020. Now, exactly a year later, Paramount is cashing in on a big gamble that audiences wanted to wait and see this in theaters, and I’d be willing to bet this is the film that will be how many make their return to the movies.
Picking up so close to the end of A Quiet Place that you could nearly edit the two films together, returning writer/director John Krasinski cleverly finds a way for his now-tragically deceased character to make an appearance. Beginning the film with a flashback to Day 1 of the invasion when alien creatures arrive from the sky and wreak havoc in a small town (and, apparently, the rest of the world), Krasinski parallels the opening of the predecessor with sly winks to locations and props that we know will be important hundreds of days from now. This prologue is the first pot of water Krasinski lights a fire under and slowly brings to a boil. When it bubbles over it sets the stage for a heart stopping sequence with creature scares that come in unlikely directions at unexpected times.
Once we get into the proper film, after Evelyn (Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns) and her children Regan (Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck), Marcus (Noah Jupe, Holmes & Watson), and a days-old newborn, ensure the creatures on their property are cleared out they quickly realize they need to leave the protection of their farm for a nearby outpost. Hoping for friendly inhabitants, perhaps a townsperson they used to know like Emmett (Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins), they make the perilous journey in silence, arriving at an abandoned metalworks plant where a painful surprise awaits. It’s here I’ll stop and save the rest for you to discover, noting that Krasinski almost out of necessity has to find a way to split the family up but devises a believable way to do so. In doing this, he’s able to stage several sequences where he uses some extraordinarily effective editing to hop between narratives and raise the blood pressure of everyone watching.
What I appreciated quite a lot about the film in general is that it sidesteps many of the duties that sequels feel obliged to fulfill. True, you see more of the creatures in this one, but only because they’ve already been introduced so the mystery of them is gone. Why continue to hide them? However, Krasinski doesn’t make it a priority to explain why the monsters have come to Earth or fashion a lot of backstory into the proceedings and that’s because it doesn’t matter one iota. Why they are there doesn’t matter as much as what is happening in the here and now. We actually don’t learn anything we didn’t already know about the beasts and why would/should we? There isn’t time to waste studying them, they just need to be stopped.
Stopping them requires a brave spirit and Krasinski (Aloha) recognized that Simmonds is a natural choice to step into the driver’s seat for this round. While Blunt is still a warm, commanding presence in the movie and earns the top-billing she receives, she’s less of the natural central figure. That aura transfers to Simmonds and, to a lesser extent, Jupe. While Jupe has shown great acumen for unlocking unique personalities in the children he’s played, his character feels less of a priority to develop than the others. Simmonds makes up a lot of ground Jupe doesn’t cover as she rises to a challenge put forth early on which takes Regan out of her comfort zone. Anyone coming into the dynamic that was so tight in the first film is at a disadvantage but with his bushy hair and beard, Murphy is more than an acceptable stand-in for Krasinski as a neighbor who has had a very different experience of survival than the Abbott family.
Not all sequels need to tread new ground, that’s why they are sometimes called Part II which insinuates it’s a continuation of a previous iteration. Krasinski has exceeded expectations and given audiences exactly what they asked for, maybe even a little more. There’s an ample number of scares to be had, some of the cheap jump variety (watch out for those random flocks of birds!) but most of the creeping flesh kind that make you squirm in your seat from anxiety. I’ve a feeling Krasinski has a third one of these in him and if I were Paramount, I’d give him the time, money, and freedom to make it when it fits into his schedule. If A Quiet Place Part II is any indication, it’s loud and clear he’s worth the wait.
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