Sequels to unexpected hits usually have a tendency to go bigger, using the money made by their predecessors to tell new stories that the originals didn't have the budget for. More often than not, those sequels aren't nearly as good as the films that that came before them. There are also a few cases, like James Cameron's Aliens, where a sequel is every bit as good as the original film, but because it does something completely different. Rarer still is a film like A Quiet Place Part II, a sequel that finds a way to tell a much grander story than its predecessor while never losing sight of what made it great in the first place.
A Quiet Place Part II picks up the story of the Abbott family right where the first film left off, with Evelyn (Emily Blunt) working to find help for her three kids after the death of her husband, Lee (John Krasinski). The film starts, however, with an extended flashback that shows the family on the day that the alien creatures first arrived. It's an absolutely thrilling sequence — one of the best of the two-film series so far — and it succeeds in setting up the terror of the movie to come while also adding layers to its central characters.
After the opening scene, the film returns to the aftermath at the Abbott family's barn. Evelyn leads the kids on the road to find a safer place to stay but things go awry when Marcus (Noah Jupe) steps in a bear trap and attracts the monsters to the doorstep of family friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy). Regan (Millicent Simmonds) discovers a distant radio signal and leaves the protection of her family to find its source, hoping to use the broadcast like she and her dad used their small radio with her hearing aid, projecting feedback that disrupts the monsters' senses.
Krasinski once again sat in the director's chair for A Quiet Place Part II and he was careful not to lose the spirit of his first hit film in the expanding world of the second. Yes, there are a few more characters in Part II, and we see so many more areas than were featured in the first. While the film isn't nearly as contained as the debut installment, what made A Quiet Place so great remains the beating heart of its sequel. The horror is slow and methodical, with scares relying on sound and claustrophobic camera work. And the stories of the core characters are as grounded and emotional as ever.
By taking Lee out of the equation, the family dynamic changes drastically, just as it would in a normal, non-dystopian circumstance. They have to re-learn how their family operates, which opens the door for Regan to really be the focal point of the story, picking up the pieces and trying her best to do what her father would do.
This new story gives Millicent Simmonds a chance to shine even brighter than she did in A Quiet Place, and she takes on the role of a star with an abundance of ease. She is an absolute powerhouse from start to finish in this movie, making it very clear that this is her moment and she has every intention of seizing it. She conveys the fear of Regan while also displaying a stern, determined attitude. From the looks in her eyes to how she carries herself from scene to scene, Simmonds is in complete control of not only her own performance, but those around her as well. She's the wheel that keeps it all turning.
It helps that she's paired with Cillian Murphy for most of the film, delivering the kind of subtly powerful performance we've come to expect from him over the years. Emmett is a man who has suffered insurmountable loss, but has to find ways to keep the weight of his sorrow light, so he can keep surviving despite not being sure what exactly it is he's living for. He ultimately finds his answer in Regan, and watching Emmett grow and evolve in real-time is a beautiful thing, one that likely wouldn't be possible without Murphy's immeasurable talent.
The great performances and brilliant sound design of A Quiet Place Part II are all in service to Krasinski's vision, the same one he had when approaching the first film. There was obviously a temptation to spend two hours building a world or explaining where the creatures came from. It would have been easy to move the whole thing to a bigger city, bring in a horde of new faces, and try to pack in scares around every corner. But Krasinski remained focused on just one thing: the story of the Abbotts. And what a beautiful story it is.4comments
Rating: 4 out of 5
A Quiet Place Part II arrives in theaters on May 28th.