Shhhhh. I know you’re excited, but you can’t let them hear you. After over a year of delays, A Quiet Place Part II has finally arrived, the highly-anticipated sequel to 2018’s surprise smash hit. Originally set for a March 2020 release, the film was pushed back due to, you guessed it, the COVID-19 pandemic. After three postponements, the film is finally here. Paramount’s move to remain committed to an exclusively theatrical release pays off, because A Quiet Place Part II is not only the biggest opening of the pandemic yet, it provides the thrills worthy of actually going to the theater.
The original A Quiet Place was conceived by Scott Back and Bryan Woods, who drew on their experiences growing up in an Iowa farm setting to write a horror film. Partly inspired by silent films they saw in college, they devised a premise where people are hunted by powerful creatures who are blind, but possess an acute sense of hearing. John Krasinski read the script along with his wife, actress Emily Blunt. The couple, who have children of their own, found the family aspect appealing, and decided to star in the movie themselves, with Krasinski directing.
The original film, shot on a budget of about only $17 million, was a massive success, earning over $340 million worldwide. Early into the film’s release, Paramount started development on a sequel. Krasinski was initially unsure about the idea, and told the studio to find another director. Scott Beck and Bryan Woods declined involvement as well, opting to use the opportunity to pursue other projects. After Paramount rejected ideas from several filmmakers, they eventually went with Krasinski, who ultimately came around when he came up with an idea for a story.
That idea was to continue focusing on the Abbott family, who in the conclusion of the first film, discovered a way of effectively combating the creatures, but were left with their home in ruins. The sequel opens on a flashback, which not only allows Krasinski to appear after his character was sacrificed in the original, but gives the audience an opportunity of seeing how everything went wrong in the first place. A picturesque small town softball game is cut short when a flaming object is seen hurtling in the sky, and as the family begins to head home, all hell breaks loose.
The budget on A Quiet Place Part II is over three times that of the original, and it’s in this sequence that this becomes clear. In terrifying and spectacular fashion, we follow the Abbots as they are introduced to the savage and destructive nature of the creatures as they rip through town. It’s also here that we are shown just how well-suited this family is for survival in this world: having a deaf member in Regan (Millicent Simmonds), the Abbots are prepped for silent communication, while Mom and Dad are ready to protect their children with their strong parental instincts.
It’s also here where Krasinski is really able to flex his directorial chops with a larger budget. This initial flashback sequence demonstrates the former Office star is really well-suited to commercial action fare in addition to the stripped-down minimalistic approach of the original. In an ironic contrast with the film’s producer, Michael Bay, Krasinski shows strength with long tracking shots, as well as with restraint in editing. This is established in the opening scene as his character Lee casually strolls through town, and is subsequently employed when the monsters attack.
Back in the present, though, the Abbotts have lost their patriarch, and need to find a way to survive. After Regan sees a fire in the distance, Evelyn leads her children and her newborn baby on a journey on foot to locate fellow survivors. At an abandoned steel foundry, they come across Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a friend from before things got bad who has lost his family and his hope. Regan, however, changes all that. After Marcus (Noah Jupe) hears a song on the radio, Regan plans to travel to a radio station to use its signal to give others her means of defense.
One of the biggest selling points of the original Quiet Place was how innovative it was, making use of the danger of making noise to create a truly unique suspense experience. It’s to be expected then that the sequel can’t quite live up to that achievement, as the film is light in offering new ways of mulling tension out of the need to maintain silence. But on the other hand, Part II does provide some “wow” factor that the original could not due to its limited budget, and it does explore some new ideas of how people would have to adapt to living in this world.
Emmett brings the Abbotts into his bunker under the steel foundry, which has a large sound-proof vault. Inside this, you are safe, and you can make a reasonable amount of noise without being heard, but the catch is you have a limited amount of time you can be in there before the oxygen run outs. Emmett uses a timer to keep track of when it’s time to come out, and he keeps a towel over the latch mechanism to muffle the noise when it shuts and to keep from getting locked inside. Both the oxygen supply and the latch will come into play in some rather clever writing.
Krasinski’s character Lee really served as the heart of the film in the original, so going into Part II it could be hard to imagine the set of characters functioning quite as well. Thankfully, this void is filled by Simmonds’ character stepping up to the plate in a major way as Regan assumes a new level of maturity, as well as by Murphy’s character seamlessly weaving into the narrative as the new father figure. The entire cast is exceptional, but Simmonds and Murphy particularly shine as their respective characters find senses of purpose after each of them has suffered profound loss.
As the plot progresses, Part II develops a bifurcated narrative, with one thread following Regan and Emmett in their mission to the radio station, and the other following Evelyn, Marcus and the baby as they endeavor to survive in the steel foundry. It’s with this setup that Krasinski impresses as both screenwriter and director, as in multiple occasions, the tension ramps up simultaneously in each thread, and the filmmaker deftly cuts back and forth between the two to mark parallels and to emphasize the suspense as the audience roots for each group’s survival.
The end result is a terrific suspense thriller, and a solid follow-up in a franchise that doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. The dynamic can be compared to the Alien series, as the first entry was a groundbreaking but minimalistic thriller, and its sequel found its own way by leaning into the spectacle. However, A Quiet Place Part II isn’t as good a sequel as Aliens, as much of the emphasis on smaller moments and sound design are lost due to the bigger scale. But in the end, Part II will satisfy fans of the first, and it’s more than deserving of the trip to the theater.