Director: John Krasinski
Cast: Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Djimon Hounsou
Runtime: 1 hr 37 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 17 June 2021
Synopsis: Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.
As much as many of us would have loved it, it would have been near impossible for ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ to match the minimalism of the first film. Tightly centred on a couple struggling to survive and raise their children in a post-apocalyptic world that is inhabited by aliens with hypersensitive hearing but are otherwise blind, the 2018 thriller succeeded by keeping its focus on the minutiae of their moment-by-moment survival, making for a deeply suspenseful experience full of clever and lean scares.
Gone is the small-scale terror of the original; right from the get-go, writer/director John Krasinski lets you know that the setting will be much broader this time round, kicking off with a rollicking opening which brings us back to Day 1 of the alien invasion. As the family gather at a Little League game to watch Marcus (Noah Jupe) take his turn to bat, a meteorite explodes as it streaks through the clouds, causing pandemonium on Main Street with the residents of Millbrook rushing to get to safety.
The contrast is intentional: not only does it satisfy our inevitable curiosity about what it was like when the aliens arrived, it also shows how the family had realised that the aliens were attracted primarily to sound, as well as how their ability to communicate in sign language was a key reason they had managed to evade the aliens. It is a gripping sequence all right, filmed in intercutting long takes and with carefully choreographed sound design (to show in particular how their daughter Regan, who is deaf, would have perceived that fateful day).
It is also the first time we are acquainted with Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a neighbour who happens to be at the same Little League game to support his son. After Day 1, the storytelling fast-forwards to Day 474 to pick up right after where the earlier film ended, with the surviving members of the Abbott family moving on from their farmstead that is now in flames and half-flooded. The sand path which had been laid down to dampen their footfall ends at a old, seemingly abandoned, steel mill, whereupon Marcus gets his foot caught in a bear trap meant to ensnare the aliens.
Though it is clear that the trap was set by him in the first place, it is a now-grieving Emmett who narrowly saves the whole family. Having lost his children on the first day of the invasion and his wife later of illness, Emmett has become hirsute and withdrawn. Nevertheless, he retains enough humanity not to cast Evelyn (Emily Blunt) out with her children, putting them up instead in his bunker under the foundry; in fact, when the fiercely independent Regan (Millicent Simonds) ventures out to find the radio tower transmitting the song on the radio she hears, Emmett ends up going out to bring her back.
Taking over writing duties completely, Krasinski decides to split up the protagonists: on one hand, Emmett and Regan tries to get to a nearby island where the radio tower is located, while trying to survive the aliens and other forms of unexpected danger; on another, Evelyn goes off by herself to scavenge for oxygen and medical supplies; and on another, Marcus inadvertently leads the creatures to the bunker and gets him and his newborn brother inadvertently locked inside a furnace while racing for safety. Whilst cross-cutting among different scenes of action typically dissipates tension, it is to Krasinski’s credit that he juggles these balls of suspense without dropping any.
If there was any doubt how much of a superb craftsman he is, this sequel should firmly and decisively put them to rest. Not only is his direction efficient and assured, Krasinski keeps the pace tripwire-tight with a number of nerve-wracking sequences, building up dread capably with details that pay off for the attentive viewer or through the use of a carefully designed soundscape to add to the claustrophobic dread. Despite a more expansive scope, Krasinski doesn’t lose sight of the keenly felt sense of family that lent heart and poignancy to his earlier film, aided once again by compelling performances from a well-chosen ensemble.
It is inevitable that ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ would not have the same novelty as its predecessor; that said, it advances the franchise in brilliant and exciting ways, whether is it setting up Regan to take over Evelyn as the heart of the movie, or showing how the invasion had taken its toll on a group of near-deranged humans, or even in expanding the universe to a near-utopian colony which had established itself on a island away from the mainland. After having waited a year to see it on the big screen, we must say it is absolutely worth the cinematic experience, and as good a reason as any to come out of our own recently tightened COVID-19 controls.
(As brilliantly taut and poignant as the first movie, even if it lacks the same novelty, this sequel is yet another superbly acted and directed masterclass in suspense)
Review by Gabriel Chong