The sequel to John Krasinski’s wildly successful horror about an alien invasion keeps up with the thrills, however, it fails to broaden the picture of the universe it operates in. If anything, the second installment revisits the same issues of a broken family and deadly dangers looming from every corner of the now-desolate world. Prepare yourself for Quentin Tarantino’s wet dream too, which means lots of close-ups on dirty feet making cautious steps in many, many locations.
A Quiet Place II (2020) picks things up where we left in part one. After Lee’s (played by writer-director John Krasinski) fatal death, his wife Evelyn needs to take care of two kids and one newborn that – despite all the charm of a lovely kiddo – tends to be loud. But before we actually move on with the main story, there is a shortstop. It’s a brief flashback that provides an insight into day zero of the invasion. Nothing out of the ordinary – classic baseball game, then the sky turns dark. Next thing you know, extraterrestrial monsters begin to wreak havoc, tearing apart people like marionettes.
While the goal of this opening sequence is a brief introduction to family’s friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy), John Krasinski does not waste the opportunity to show off his directorial progress and cinematographical prowess. From fast-paced one-takes to impressive special effects and quick cuts between scenes, A Quiet Place II (2020) enters the screening room with a serious punch. Sure, you’ve probably seen most of it in a bunch of sci-fi films before. In spite of that, it’s an academic example of the Hitchcockian theory of avalanche that starts the film.
Frankly, the director might have left the lecture halfway through. A Quiet Place II (2020) does not continue to build anticipation, according to the thought of Alfred Hitchcock. On the contrary, the proceedings turn melancholic. Krasinski decides to watch closely the family broken into pieces, hence the pace goes down, and the effect leaves you confused; like a cocktail that started nicely but you quickly learn it’s not as strong as you wish. Such a slightly sedative-infused atmosphere breaks thanks to Regan (Millicent Simmonds) who sets up a fire signal on top of a silo. If you’ve watched The Lord Of The Rings, you know what follows – someone responds with a flame.
In that manner, Krasinski trades the Abbott farmhouse for a few new locations, including an underground hideout (heavily reminded me of a sadly forgotten sci-fi Hidden (2015)), as well as dusky forests where every branch could call forth the deadly predators. The set designs do look familiar, and that’s one reason why A Quiet Place II (2020) doesn’t offer much novelty. The post-invasion world lacks its character, a kind of distinctiveness that greatly enriched Mad Max: Fury Road (2016), I Am Legend (2007), or District 9 (2009). Even smaller productions – such was the case of Captive State (2019) – designed more intricate worlds, whilst operating on a significantly smaller budget.
The most praiseworthy aspect of A Quiet Place II (2020) is that it approaches the works of Cormac McCarthy. Krasinski avoids too much misery, alas the thrill ride could have used a more settled narrative. Still, Krasinski embraces what’s so essential about McCarthy – the apocalyptic reality where basic instincts take over. At the same time, A Quiet Place II (2020) avoids dipping in pessimism, but not because it has some other deep thought going on. The reason’s fairly simple – you’re inhaling pure entertainment, baby, so don’t overthink it.
Furthermore, A Quiet Place II (2020) operates in a strange grey zone where it refuses to build on top of A Quiet Place (2018). It’s another lesson that Krasinski might have missed – conducted by Ridley Scott whose Alien franchise patiently constructed the enigma of xenomorphs. Relying on what’s already been established isn’t enough, since it’s embedded in the DNA of sequels that they usually expand on the themes present in their predecessors.
On the brighter side, acting remains unchangeably solid throughout the whole film. Reprising her role of Evelyn is Emily Blunt, who leads the pack as a worried mother who now takes the responsibility to keep her children alive at all costs. Blunt has tremendous control over the emotions she channels, which allows Evelyn to possess complexity despite little development narrative-wise.
The same goes for Millicent Simmonds, who carries much of the film on her shoulders. Simmonds gives Regan soul, and oozes a warm aura around. Paired up with the silverback actor Cillian Murphy, the two constitute a well-paired duo, if thrown into the clunky machinery of plot-moving cogs. That mainly influences the arc of Emmett, whose main theme of “living up to the standards of Lee” strikes as rather far-fetched.
Eventually, a part of me could not shake off the feeling that we’ve been served an old chestnut by a big studio that sniffed out an opportunity to capitalize on the 2018 hit. Be that as it may, John Krasinski directed a film that will not let down the die-hard fans of the first part, while also keeping the gates open for the next films.