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Violence amidst the silence – ‘A Quiet Place Part II’

June 1, 2021
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The cinematic landscape is littered with unnecessary sequels.

The reality is that in this time of IP franchise building, any original film that achieves box office success is almost certainly going to receive the sequel treatment, regardless of whether the story actually lends itself to continuation.

Often, that leads to sequels that bear only tangential connection to their predecessors, both in terms of commercial and critical success. To wit – they’re worse and fewer people see them.

However, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, a filmmaker is able to craft an addition to their initial story that contributes something more to the story being told while also maintaining the spirit of the original, even if that original seemingly concluded satisfactorily.

“A Quiet Place Part II” – writer-director John Krasinski’s follow-up to his excellent 2018 “A Quiet Place” – falls into that latter category. While that first film didn’t necessarily seem to cry out for a sequel, its success ensured that it would get one nevertheless. And while I think one can argue that this new film is in fact largely unnecessary, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad.

Quite the opposite, really.

Now, it doesn’t clear the high bar set by the first movie, whose surprising and innovative craftsmanship made it one of the best horror movies of recent years. But it does have plenty to offer, and with Emily Blunt to lead the cast and Krasinski steering the ship, it proves to be quite a successful film.

It’s bigger and louder than the first film – sometimes to its detriment – but it still manages to expand upon that film’s world, both in terms of the apocalyptic present day and, through flashback, the horrifying swiftness of society’s collapse beneath the weight of an attack by a seemingly invincible enemy.

“A Quiet Place Part II” actually starts well before the events of the first film. It actually takes us all the way back to the day where it all started. We get to watch as monsters descend on the small town where the Abbott family lives. We’re witness to the frantic attempts at escape as the creatures cut their swath of destruction through the town, even as Lee (Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt, “Mary Poppins Returns”) try to protect their family.

Back in the present day, some 400-plus days after the initial invasion, Evelyn and her kids Regan (Millicent Simmonds, “Close Up”) and Marcus (Noah Jupe, TV’s “The Undoing”) – plus the new baby – must abandon their farm following the ultimately successful but incredibly costly victory that marked the end of the previous film. Left with no other choice, the family must make their way overland in hopes of finding others who might be able to help them.

Unfortunately, when they finally do find someone else, it doesn’t go as they’d hoped. They wind up in an old manufacturing plant that has been commandeered by Emmett (Cillian Murphy, “Anna”), an old acquaintance who isn’t all that interested in trying to help them.

But when they hear a song on the radio after so many months of nothing but static, the Abbotts realize that there might be others out there. And Regan believes that with help from those who are transmitting, she can scale up the weaponized sound that they managed to use to defeat the creatures once before. She sets off on her own, which is as ill-advised as it sounds.

From there, the story splinters, bouncing from perspective to perspective as each individual Abbott does what he or she thinks might help protect the family against their horrifying enemy. But while many of those foes are monstrous aliens, there are some that, while still monstrous, are all too human.

As I said, if you want to argue that “A Quiet Place Part II” is unnecessary, I won’t fight you on it. The first film did tie things up nicely, so there was no need to reopen that box. However, it’s worth noting that as far as unnecessary sequels go, this is an awfully solid offering. Again – not as good as the first one, but there’s no shame in that. It’s still pretty darned good.

Much of that can be chalked up to Krasinski, who might wind up proving to have as much talent behind the camera as he does in front of it. He’s shown himself to have a great eye for action sequences and a well-honed knack for generating tension, bringing together those skills in both this movie and its predecessor. It’s rare for a relatively inexperienced filmmaker to get so much leeway, but it sure seems like he had a good deal of autonomy in putting this film together.

Making a movie whose action is driven by CGI monsters is tricky. While the effects work here is good, even good CGI can fall flat if overexposed. This film handles that deftly; while we do get a lot of monster shots, relatively few of them are extended; Krasinski gives us a lot of brief flashes and distant views along with quick-cutting action, a strategy that keeps our eyes from fully discerning the unreality of our antagonists.

There are some good jump scares throughout, though the movie doesn’t rely on them. And much like the first film, the sound design is centered throughout in ways both expected and surprising.

The performances are strong across the board. Blunt has become something of a go-to for this kind of high-concept genre film; she conveys a blend of strength and vulnerability onscreen that makes her an ideal choice for unconventional heroes. Here, she vibrates with a desperate energy that she harnesses into steely resolve when needed. The two kids are both good, though Simmonds gets more to do – there’s a comfort level to their characterizations that you don’t often see in actors so young. And Murphy is an excellent addition, serving as the face of those who truly lost everything and were broken by that loss.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is a movie whose overall quality belies its somewhat cynical origins. But in this case, success begets success – it’s a rare example of an unnecessary sequel that proves to be worthwhile in its own right.

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 June 2021 06:06

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