Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | May 27th, 2021
A Quiet Place Part II (John Krasinski, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.
At just 97 minutes, A Quiet Place Part II comes across, like its 90-minute predecessor, brisk and efficient in the delivery of a sparse narrative. In fact, it could actually stand to be a bit longer, given where and how it concludes. I had significant issues with the first movie, since I felt its premise fell apart upon close examination, though I loved both its mise-en-scène and sound design. Since it doesn’t seem fair to judge progeny for the sins of the parent (why bother watching a sequel, if one feels otherwise?), I was inclined to leave my story criticisms behind, hoping for thrilling additions on what worked. I was mostly not disappointed. While it has its weak moments, A Quiet Place Part II is more often than not the dramatically taut sci-fi/horror hybrid that fans want and need.
We start on Day 1 of the alien invasion, in a gripping opener that gives us the Abbott family, friends and neighbors in the moments just before all hell breaks loose. Paterfamilias Lee (director John Krasinski, Amazon’s Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) arrives late to his son Marcus’s Little League game, joining wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns) and daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck) in the stands. Next to them is a new character, Emmett, who, given that he is played by a well-known face, actor Cillian Murphy (The Party), will probably factor in to what follows. As Marcus (Noah Jupe, Honey Boy) takes his turn at the plate, an explosion in the sky distracts everyone from his strikeout. All then scramble for cover, but it is too late. The monsters are here.
To recap: the creatures in this series resemble a cross between both the egg (in terms of its flaps) and Xenomorph from Ridley Scott’s Alien and the eyeless man in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. They are also blind, though this fact does not prevent them from being deadly, as their acute hearing makes them apex predators. And though, as in Part I, Krasinski is inconsistent as to which sounds attract them when and why, once again the setup leads to an innovative audio landscape.
After the truly frightening prologue, we cut to Day 474, in the aftermath of Lee’s death and the family’s discovery that Regan’s hearing aid (she is deaf), held up to a microphone, creates a kind of feedback that not only temporarily disables the aliens but causes them to open up their facial flaps enough to make them vulnerable. Call it their Achilles mouth. However it works, it’s the only defense we humans have. Hoping to find other survivors, off Evelyn, Regan and Marcus go, new baby in tow, to see who lives just over the ridge, whence a beacon matching theirs has long been visible.
And, you guessed it, there waits Emmett, his own family now deceased. Unfortunately for Marcus, he gets caught in one of Emmett’s booby traps on the way over, though his cries of distress lead to some nice, subsequent scares and action. While he suffers, Regan forms a plan, as she has figured out what the recurring song they hear on the radio, Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea,” means. Asking no one’s permission, she takes off to find help, followed closely by would-be rescuer Emmett, while Evelyn goes into town to grab pain meds for Marcus. The resultant parallel editing between three different scenes (Marcus left alone with the baby is the third) ratchets up the tension in the best kind of way, while also adding new story information. All goes well, until a bit of a disappointing finish.
That ending includes the only significant person of color sacrificing himself for the greater good (methinks we’ve seen this a bit too much over the years) and a rather abrupt wrap up. It’s pretty clear that Krasinski and company have hopes for at least a Part III, and while I welcome that, I’d rather not feel quite so manipulated into that desire. Still, as pure entertainment, A Quiet Place Part II delivers, and wanting more is certainly better than wanting less.