When it came to a close, John Krasinski’s shut-up-or-die thriller A Quiet Place didn’t entirely call for a sequel. But that doesn’t mean that room wasn’t left open for one, ending on a dangling moment of triumph. To really any Hollywood exec, that cock-of-a-shotgun of an ending probably more sounded like that of a dinging cash register. So now (a year later than originally planned), is the return to the shushed countryside silence where a deadly race of very well heard extraterrestrial prowl. A Quiet Place Part II follows the standard sequel protocol of upping the ante, with more characters, more locations, and more predators in search of noisy prey. And while its title implies to be a continuation, what this second installment mostly offers is really more of the same: It’s a part two in the classic, traditional sense, echoing without quite amplifying the pleasures of its predecessor.
The film also provides a sequel characteristic of providing an opening passage set before the events of the first movie. Krasinski, returning to direct, rewinds to the start of the invasion, which allows him to briefly reprise his starring role as Lee Abbott, husband and father of a family about to be thrust into a new nightmarish normal. This “day one” sequence is quite strong: As a little league game is interrupted by something streaking through the sky overhead, an idyllic stretch of American everytown erupts into panic and death, which Krasinski stages through a series of extended shots, including one that tracks the mayhem from inside a moving vehicle, in the vein of Children of Men. It’s so strongly staged that you likely won’t mind that the kids, played again by Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, look noticeably older than their characters are supposed to be.
Among all the mayhem is Cillian Murphy as another dad unprepared for what his life’s about to become. It’s not until after Part II leaps into the aftermath of this opening that we see his Emmett again, now bearded and haunted with grief. He’s living in an abandoned factory, surveying his booby-trapped surroundings through the scope of his rifle. Appearing in his crosshairs are the remaining Abbotts: hardened mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt); resourceful deaf daughter Regan (Simmonds), whose implants help generate the sonic feedback the family aims at marauding monsters; sensitive son Marcus (Jupe); and a vocal infant. They’ve fled their farmhouse sanctuary in search of fellow survivors. Emmett has bad news on that front: “The people left are not the kind of people worth saving,” he ominously whispers.
This clearly sounds like a recipe for escalation — for a thriller that might add a human menace to the inhuman one. Yet A Quiet Place Part II barely scratches the surface of that idea (and when it does its rather goofy). The same is true to really any of its ideas; it hints at a bigger world outside the boundaries of its genre games then largely neglects to explore it. The plot, which Krasinski wrote alone this time around, splits the nuclear family into parallel tracks, a search party and a fortress to defend. The divided narrative benefits some of the actors more than others: While Simmonds develops a terse rapport with Murphy, Blunt and Jupe are somewhat nudged to the sidelines. Broadly, it’s admirable that Krasinski continues the minimalism of the original: No one could accuse him of bloating this new chapter. Yet at ninety-seven minutes, his sequel feels pared down to a fault, with no room to further flesh out this world or its occupants. Krasinski builds on the first film’s weaponization of space and sound, finding new ways of staging something hideously crawling into the hazy middle distance, or finding subjectivity within Regan’s senses.
Still, though, the novelty of the overall premise has waned. It’s been sequelized into a quiet-loud-quiet formula: a sprint here, a crouch there, a shriek. Part II also diminishes the emotional stakes of the equation, the way the last film turned the necessity for wordlessness into a language of dysfunction, a metaphor for how a broken family fails to communicate. A Quiet Place Part II is finely prepared leftovers, still tasty but with a faint hint of staleness. The film’s final scenes are both redundant and inconclusive; they hit almost the same note as the original’s ending, only this time the ellipsis seemingly promises another installment. No words needed. While it may be overly tidy and meager as a piece of succinct storytelling, A Quiet Place Part II stills works decently well as a series of strong set pieces.
A Quiet Place Part II is currently playing in theaters nationwide, as of May 28