Producers: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller and John Krasinski Director: John Krasinski Screenplay: John Krasinski Cast: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millecent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Djimon Hounsou. Dean Woodward and John Krasinski Distributor: Paramount Pictures
After multiple release postponements because of the COVID-19 pandemic, John Krasinski’s follow-up to his surprise 2018 hit, originally scheduled to open on March 18, 2020, now arrives as one of Hollywood’s first major summer blockbusters of 2021. Taking sole screenwriting credit this time around as well as directing—and arranging for his character, killed off in the first installment, to be resurrected for a flashback prologue—Krasinski has concocted a sequel that repeats both the strengths and the weaknesses of its predecessor, making for a sometimes illogical but generally suspenseful piece that should satisfy fans of the first film.
After the prologue—in which Lee Abbott (Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), their deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and young son Beau (Dean Woodward) are attending a Little League game in which their older son Marcus (Noah Jupe) is playing—must run for their lives, along with everybody else in town, when alien ships appear in the sky and disgorge the murderous creatures that track down their victims, it quickly becomes apparent, through the sounds they make. The family escapes though most others do not.
The plot proper begins where the last film left off. Having lost Lee and Beau to the aliens, and forced to leave the remote farmhouse where they’d been staying after it had been trashed during the alien assault in which Lee died, the remaining Abbotts—Evelyn, Regan, Marcus and Evelyn’s newborn—venture into the surrounding countryside to search for a new hideaway. They take with them the microphone and speaker that, in that climactic battle, had, in conjunction with Regan’s cochlear, been key to their victory over the creature by targeting its super-acute hearing.
As the family moves toward an abandoned steel mill, Marcus steps into a bear trap and is seriously injured. They’re rescued by Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a townsman who’s lost his family to the aliens and is now surviving alone, using the mill’s huge furnace as a bunker of last resort. He’s reluctant to let them stay but eventually agrees to do so.
Soon Regan and Marcus notice a radio station still broadcasting, though nothing more than a continuous loop of Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea.” Regan determines to find the source of the broadcast, intending to feed the sound emitted by her cochlear into the transmitter so that other survivors can use it, amplified, against the aliens. Though Marcus tries to dissuade her from leaving, she insists on going, and when the distraught Evelyn finds out, she begs Emmett to go after her. He eventually catches up to her, and after horrifying encounters with both an alien and a group of brutal human survivors at a marina, they make their way to the island where the radio station is located and a small community lives in peace and harmony. In the process they learn another of the aliens’ weaknesses.
Meanwhile Evelyn leaves the mill to walk into town to secure medicine to treat Marcus’ wound. During her absence he investigates the place, accidentally creating a clamor that draws an alien’s attention. He and his mother have to fend off the creature just as another of them makes its way to the island, where Regan and Emmett must use her cochlear and the transmitter against it to save the community.
By separating the characters as he does into two—and at times three—groups and jumping back and forth between them, Krasinski is able to multiply the tension. And his embrace of relatively simple keys to fighting off the aliens—the high-pitched noise revealed in the first picture and a second factor here—is almost a shout-out to H.G. Welles’s “The War of the Worlds,” where the invaders were felled as a result of an unexpected weakness.
That doesn’t mean that he’s been successful in eliminating the logical lapses that were noticeable in the first film, the most notable being the vagary in the aliens’ ability to detect, and quickly react to, noise. Sometimes they show up at the slightest sound, but occasionally they’re comparatively slow to do so. A major instance in this case occurs when Marcus is caught in the bear trap; he screams over and over again, yet an alien doesn’t appear as instantaneously as one might anticipate in response to such a racket. Other inconsistencies arise in regard to how effectively the aliens can be dispatched with bullets and bars; one might succumb quickly, another only after a prolonged struggle.
But if one is willing to overlook these and similar hiccups, this second helping of “A Quiet Place” delivers on its promise of a story that will keep you squirming. The now seasoned cast is an integral part of its success. Blunt radiates concern along with determination, and Simmonds the appropriate spunk, while Jupe, with “Wonder,” “Honey Boy” and the HBO series “The Undoing” on his résumé, continues to impress as one of the screen’s most reliable teen actors. Murphy fits nicely into the family dynamic, by the end assuming the part of surrogate dad.
Once again the work of the crafts team—production designer Jess Gonchor, cinematographer Polly Morgan and editor Michael B. Shawyer—is instrumental in building a convincing world, in this case both pre- and post-invasion, while Marco Beltrami contributes a score that adds to the tension while bolstering the sudden shocks. The all-important efforts of the sound department shouldn’t be forgotten either, nor the topnotch visual effects supervised by Scott Farrar.
“A Quiet Place Part II” doesn’t reinvent the horror movie wheel—even the first film didn’t do that—but like its predecessor it cunningly employs silence to generate a pervasively unsettling atmosphere and sudden bursts of sound to amplify the jolts.