For a while it looks like A Quiet Place Part II is perversely going to be a prequel story. We’re not in the post-apocalyptic world of the first film, where much of humanity is dead and ghastly monsters are picking off the survivors one by one. Instead we’re at a baseball game, where the pre-disaster Abbott family – Lee (John Krasinski), Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) – are having one of those all-American family days with their friends and neighbours. All is lovely. Until, from the sky, a flaming asteroid, or spacecraft, or something, arrives and within minutes the carnage has started.
It’s all by way of a “the story so far” reminder, a neat one, and the action has soon cut to 400-and-something days later, to exactly where the first film ended, with a death, a new baby just born and a recent discovery that the feedback from Millicent’s hearing aid (she’s deaf) is a powerful weapon against these alien beasts who rely on sound to track down their lunch.
It’s also, this flashback, served to introduce the character of Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a redneck-y, survivalist-y friend of the family whose flicker of interest towards young Regan in the instant he is introduced is used as one of the scent trails luring us through this story.
If Part I was about the parents, Evelyn in particular – memorable moments included her giving birth while trying not to make a sound – Part II is about the kids, with Marcus early on getting a straightforward equivalent of Evelyn stepping on that protruding nail in the first film, while Regan straps on a bit of her mother’s attitude to try and make the best of a bad situation and find a possible sanctuary on an island off the coast.
So, 90-odd minutes of people creeping around going shush? Yes, pretty much, but director Krasinski proves again that it’s all about the small moments, building tension by clearly laying out a tiny but life-saving challenge and then minutely observing as the do-or-die manoeuvre is carried out. It might be something as simple as stepping on to a desk, but Krasinski makes it gripping, with lessons obviously learned from Train to Busan.
It all set in a familiar post-apocalyptic world, though much of the action takes place in an abandoned steel mill where globalisation rather than alien invasion is to blame for the devastation – join the dots – and Krasinski also drops in the odd reference to the 1930s Dust Bowl photographs of Dorothea Lange, particularly the way he shoots his (real-life and screen) wife as careworn yet dignified.
The kids are great – it’s Simmonds’s film, really – but most of the applause should go to Krasinski’s skill at setting up the “boo” moments when the aliens pounce. These have a habit of arriving after Krasinski has primed us for something, and then appeared to have whispered “false alarm”… and then whammy!
Marco Beltrami’s unsettling soundtrack is almost more noise than music, frequently echoing the feedback of Regan’s hearing aid in its use of discordant, ascendant whistling.
The shock of the first film’s novelty can’t be trumped but Part II is in many respects a better film. Krasinski does not muff any of the big moments, and at one point starts running three stories – Regan and Emmett out in the wilds, Marcus back at the steel foundry, Evelyn out prospecting for medical supplies – in parallel, giving each crescendos that feed into the others.
And he repeatedly takes our emotions into major and minor keys. When things aren’t shocking, they’re buttery – cicadas chirp, the warm wind sighs. It’s all expertly done. A slight film, incredibly slight, really, with barely a plot. But it has mood and it has pace, and that’s plenty.
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© Steve Morrissey 2021