A Quiet Place Part II is a quintessential great sequel. Everything that worked about the first movie remains intact: high tension, gross monsters, great characters, strong relationships, it’s all there. This time though, everything is bigger—the number of settings and characters, and the scale of the action set pieces. However, the larger landscape doesn’t quite extend to the story as a whole and the result is a film that works but feels familiar and a bit constricted.
Once again directed by John Krasinski, A Quiet Place Part II follows Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and her kids Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) who have just survived a terrifying showdown with gruesome, killer aliens that attack anything that makes a sound. They need to find a new home for themselves and the family’s newborn, which quickly leads them to meet a local man named Emmett (Cillian Murphy). Emmett has problems of his own, mostly stemming from those aliens, but begrudgingly joins along for the ride. This all comes after a staggering, dynamic opening—a blend of normalcy and absolute terror that sets a high bar for the rest of the film. As a whole, it will mostly live up to those expectations, especially since the scene only moves the dial slightly in terms of overall importance. A small flaw that’ll keep peeking up throughout.
While the first Quiet Place only hinted at the rest of the world and kept most of the story rather insular, Part II flips that completely—this tale takes place solely in the outside world and branches out quite a bit. After the family meets up with Emmett, the film splinters into three parts: one lead by Evelyn, one by Marcus, and another with Regan. On their own, each feels focused and compact in a way that’s befitting of the world but it also allows the characters to cover more ground, revealing scenarios, people, and settings that are new and interesting. And of course, this wouldn’t be a horror movie if those stories didn’t take very wrong turns and lead to multiple showdowns with the terrifying creatures. Throughout, Krasinski flexes his filmmaking muscle with impressive, sweeping camera moves, dynamic, varied cinematography, and that intense use of sound design that makes this franchise so unique. I had forgotten how impactful it was for Regan to be a lead character, in small part because it allows the film to go from screams and destruction to absolute silence and back again.
Regan’s portion of the film is by far the most significant in terms of forward-moving narrative while the others work mostly as character development, especially in the case of Marcus, and ultimately feel more like filler than anything else. Well-made, entertaining filler, but filler nonetheless. Anytime the movie isn’t with Regan’s story, we just want more of her, and the movie can sometimes feel like it’s standing in place as a result. That’s also partially because, while Emily Blunt and Cillian Murphy might be the big names here, A Quiet Place Part II is very much Millicent Simmonds’ movie. Blunt and Murphy facilitate her journey at a level you’d expect from actors of their caliber, but Simmonds easily slips into that leading role. She’s an excellent young hero because while she exudes bravery and confidence, there’s also just enough stupidity and innocence to keep her endearing. The film might be a little off-center when it’s not with Regan, but when it is, you get excellent twists, turns, scares, and, ultimately, revelations.
That doesn’t help solve the other small problem here which is, after the first film, we know what the aliens look like, so Krasinski features them a lot more, as you’d expect and want. However, learning about the aliens in the first film was such a good mystery on top of the scares and gore, it gave that film another distinct level of intrigue. In the sequel, the scares and gore exist mostly without that mystique, and so some of the welcome world-building that made the first Quiet Place so good, is lost and nothing really fills in for it. The few attempts at expanding the world in huge, meaningful ways are fleeting at best, as if the filmmakers are now holding back for future installments.
The few places A Quiet Place Part II suffers are mostly because it’s a sequel—it’s bigger by virtue of showing more of this world, but the story feels like it’s holding back ever so slightly to tell more down the road. Actions scenes are larger and with more detailed creature effects, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Beyond that, the movie works incredibly well. We care about the returning characters, we’re invested in their stories, and while those stories aren’t quite Lord of the Rings epic in scale, the ramifications for everyone in this world might be. The new characters, albeit sporadic, provide tantalizing alternate viewpoints and the finale is hugely satisfying and exciting, while leaving plenty of room for more. A Quiet Place Part II is a sequel that lives up to, though doesn’t quite surpass, the original.
A Quiet Place Part II opens only in theaters on May 28. It’ll be on Paramount+ later this summer.
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