Sleeper hit A Quiet Place was simple, effective and free of pretence. John Krasinski wrote, directed and performed opposite his real-life wife Emily Blunt, in a story centred on family. Much of the original was devoted to demonstrating the importance of being together and relying on strength through unity. That this family drama then morphed into a survival horror with silence as its singular trigger proved to be a masterstroke. An insightfulness which carries over into A Quiet Place Part II, as Millicent Simmonds’ Regan comes to the fore.
Following on from her staggering debut in Wonderstruck from Todd Haynes, it soon becomes apparent early on how crucial Simmonds is in this sequel. Her all too human imperfections add pathos, imply strength and are fundamental to audience reconnection. They tie in so seamlessly with the reintroduction of themes and visual communication, that some might miss it. A Quiet Place Part II takes a perceived disability and repurposes it for a narrative that would be lost otherwise. Whole scenes, almost every form of human interaction and several set pieces are shaped around silence, and it provides both profound strength and terror dependent upon point of view.
Looking beyond the inherent empowerment on screen embodied through subtle sound design, Emily Blunt takes on more traditional duties as a shotgun-toting matriarch. Evelyn is Ripley in floral print with equal amounts of hard-edged humanity. Grief threatens to consume them all from the outset, as Krasinski’s Lee is conspicuously absent. Noah Jupe’s Marcus is perpetually in peril, while his sister Regan steps up to supersede her brother. Elsewhere, the introduction of Cillian Murphy’s Emmett changes their dynamic, whilst fulfilling an essential function as surrogate patriarch for this diminished family unit.
As the narrative branches out into road trip territory, briefly becomes a rites of passage fable and then reverts back to its thriller roots, closure seems possible. In a move which is both audacious and understated, Krasinski offers up a three-way set piece that illustrates his flair for action. As simultaneous sequences play out in isolation, plot points are tied together like a devious cat’s cradle. The iconic and the ingenious collide as each principal player gets their time to shine.
Production designer Jess Gonchor builds on the original blueprint created by Jeffrey Beecroft to depict a society in decline. Derelict homes, dilapidated train carriages and industrial disrepair reinforce the sense of disconnection. Cinematographer Polly Morgan ramps up tension by keeping her principal players in tight close-up, blurring backgrounds and playing on shadows. Pitch black doorways and idyllic summer settings are pervaded by threat, while set pieces feel vaguely voyeuristic.
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However, there are a few issues which are worth mentioning which include how little Murphy has to do. Emmett feels like a plot device rather than anyone of depth. Granted, there is a sense of personal tragedy and mild psychosis, which comes out in an unpleasant reveal. However, his character feels tacked on rather than organic. Dialogue is mumbled, motivation’s unclear and certain actions unwarranted. His selfless acts of personal sacrifice might come from the right place, but ultimately his actions only do more harm. Djimon Hounsou is equally wasted in a role which feels condensed to tighten up an already sparse final act.
A need for closure, renewal and new beginnings may not seem possible here, but somehow this film remains hopeful. Creeping dread might exist around every corner and there’s evidence of a population gone native, but thematically, strength through community prevails. Tonally, it’s a subtle wire to walk, but one which this sophomore effort pulls off without breaking a sweat. Creature design, meanwhile, remains on point, being both repulsive yet a masterful combination of form and function. And that their Achille’s heel continues to be the central strength of our empowered pubescent protagonist is not lacking in irony.
On a more mainstream level, Krasinski delivers an effective thriller with some solid jump scares. Terror feels tangible throughout and silence has rarely been deployed with more consideration. Although A Quiet Place Part II stays safely within the conventions of established genres, there are enough surprises here to suggest that Krasinski as a director is not finished. His eye for structure, understanding of dialogue and clarity of vision, at least in relation to this film franchise, is fully formed. In a time when identity, image and awareness are key to any discussion, A Quiet Place Part II demonstrates the possibilities of stories in the hands of those uniquely suited to explore them.
Writer director John Krasinski builds on the kudos of his sleeper hit A Quiet Place, with an expansive sequel of equal calibre.