Picking up not just where the first movie left off but actually before the first movie started, A QUIET PLACE PART II quickly and efficiently sets the scene for the drama to come. It’s good to see Krasinski back in these early scenes, underlining just how reassuring a presence he was in the first film and darkly reminding us that we won’t have that comfort this time around.
In the aftermath of the attack on their home, Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) along with her children, deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and their newborn baby realises that they have to leave their no longer safe homestead in search of another settlement. Stumbling, literally, into a trap set by Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a former family friend, they convince him to shelter them, but he is reluctant to let them stay and insists they must leave the next day. Realising the discovery of the aliens’ vulnerability to feedback may be the key to finding safety again, Regan ventures out alone to find the source of a radio signal continually transmitting the Boddy Darrin song “Across The Sea”.
Krasinski looms large in A QUIET PLACE PART II, and not just because he’s once again calling the shots behind the camera – shooting from his own script this time. His character’s presence – or more accurately absence – infuses every scene and the immediate need for survival often smothers but never fully extinguishes the anguish of his loss. Krasinski’s confident direction and committed, full-blooded performances from new and returning cast members ensures that this sequel works hard to maintain that same air of desperate tension that gave the original its edge, despite the air of familiarity of the situational peril which plagues the unfortunate Abbott clan and its singular failure to finish the story for a second time.
The premise of A QUIET PLACE was perfectly suited to a one-and-done story of survival against the odds and, in stretching the story out further, it starts to run the risk of exposing some of the less sustainable elements of its world-building. It also doubles down on its dead-wrong conceit that someone who is deaf would have some kind of advantage in a dangerously quiet world when, in fact, as the sequel demonstrates, the opposite would be the case. But there’s clearly an appetite in both the studio’s coffers and the audience’s pockets and this film ends on something of a cliff-hanger so you know there’s no way that Paramount isn’t going to flog this to death.
The real challenge for A QUIET PLACE PART II is that for all its polished presentation and performances, it’s such a narrow concept that “expanding the world” leaves only two viable narrative trajectories: just showing us the same story over and over again with different characters (e.g. THE WALKING DEAD model) or ramping the scale and stakes up until it’s not really the same thing anymore (e.g. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS model). Either may provide some great entertainment, but there was something pure and perfect about the first film which A QUIET PLACE PART II inadvertently but inevitably diminishes.