Watching the prologue of A Quiet Place Part II, which returns to the day that the noise-sensitive monsters of the first film arrived on Earth, I realized that post-apocalyptic cinema should thrive in the post-pandemic era. These films rely on a certain kind of nostalgia for a way of life abruptly lost, the before to their horrific after, and even though COVID-19 didn’t turn our daily lives into a dystopian wasteland, this has become a very relatable sentiment.
I’ve grown accustomed to feeling a certain yearning when I watch anything filmed before 2020, but as John Krasinski’s patriarch Lee arrives at his son’s little-league game and joins a bleacher filled with cheering families, I realized this feeling was, for once, an intentional part of the filmmaking. I found the ache behind each empty building and overgrown street far more poignant than before, and I can only hope more movies take advantage of this feeling before it (hopefully) fades.
Excluding this first scene, Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part II picks up right where the original left off: Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and her three children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and a newborn son have discovered they can incapacitate the creatures that hunt them with the feedback from Millicent’s defective hearing aid. Armed with this knowledge, they depart the wreckage of their family home and soon encounter Emmett (Cillian Murphy), an old friend who has lost his faith in what remains of humanity and only reluctantly takes them in. His despair meets its match in Millicent, however, who is determined to use her ability to exploit the aliens’ weakness for more than just self-preservation.
Fans of 2018’s A Quiet Place will be delighted to know that Part II delivers a similarly excellent movie theater experience – grippingly tense, if not quite as creatively so, from beginning to end. Krasinski again makes the most of his premise with a combination of sound design and camerawork that highlights the performances, which are excellent. The story continues the series’ familial theme by tasking the children with carrying on their father’s legacy, and while this sidelines Blunt after she was so crucial to the first movie’s success, Simmonds and Jupe prove capable of carrying this one. Simmonds, especially, is wonderful to watch; Regan exudes hope and heroism in a way that believably transforms those around her, and the film’s most affecting moments are of her triumphing over fear.
These successes dominate the viewing experience, but this second outing does struggle to match the impact of the first, which stems from the decision to venture out from the family farm. A Quiet Place was so exquisitely gripping because it found creative ways to make the characters fight to stay silent, and the contained setting facilitated this by allowing details to slowly accrue with delayed payoff. This film’s multiple locations don’t quite match that level of fine-tuning, and the scenarios suffer somewhat in their predictability. Additionally, the worldbuilding that was considered a weakness the first time around is left much more exposed, resulting in a few underdeveloped elements that distract from the well-executed set pieces. Overall, though, Part II is a strong sequel that justifies returning to these characters and leaves me eager to see