Thursday, June 3, 2021


To watch A Quiet Place Part II is to realize that the premise behind A Quiet Place had only about enough to sustain that movie’s run time. The novelty of monsters attracted to sound — hence the title — ravaging the world and a tight focus on the plight of one small family to stay alive by making as little noise as possible did make for an exciting watch. But once you know the solution — and it’s not not the one from Mars Attacks! — the air goes out of the balloon a little. Where do they go next? Well, this time the surviving members of the family carry their monster repellent as they try to find a new safe place, but it only works when the plot allows it. But that’s really the answer to why anything happens in this sequel. The whole thing ends up an exercise in decisions made simply to extend the suspense. Why do they stop at the hideout of a lonely Cillian Murphy? To make us wonder if he’s trustworthy. (They don’t even know his 28 Days Later post-apocalyptic bona fides.) Why do they split up? The better to cross-cut between two, and sometimes three, little missions. Why do they need to go to a place to get a thing to another thing? To try to save their little corner of the world, of course. It’s what dad would want, the daughter says. Fair enough.

That this flimsy construction works at all has to be a tribute to director John Krasinski (here taking over scripting duties as well, in his spare time when not living on screen but for one extended flashback). He proves a perfectly fine button-pusher of a filmmaker, stringing his characters and his audience along through one moderately effective suspense sequence after the next. There is nothing else to it. (There was nothing else about the first one either, although I do enjoy Wesley Morris’ take that it’s a horror movie about White fears of cancel culture, ha ha.) Here there’s a baby in a box and oxygen dipping. There’s the son (Noah Jupe) with his leg in a bear trap. There’s a deaf girl (Millicent Simmonds) off on her own. There’s the looming threat of nasty others lurking somewhere out there. Maybe they’re by a crashed train or an abandoned boat. And there are those monsters, too, sometimes stalking unnoticed in the background of one of the film’s handsome longer takes. It’s all too elemental to entirely ignore. Of course you don’t want a slimy thing bursting out and chomping on the sweet kids doing their earnest best to play notes between scared silly and steely resolve. Giving the movie over to them, with Emily Blunt and Murphy playing support is a smart move. They’re easy to care about, and Krasinski knows how to play the child-in-danger card mercilessly.

There’s real pressure-cooker qualities to the cross-cutting that works up a decent head of steam in the back half, even if I could feel the grinding gears and clunking mechanics moving the pieces into place. Why’s he standing there? Why’d she stop over here? Why can’t he take a few more steps? Why does the monster hear this but not that? To keep the movie going, that’s why! If anything the delay dealt the movie by the pandemic — it was one of the first big movies pushed, due to its spring 2020 date, and now gets to be one of the first big movies welcoming us to something like back to the multiplex — served to make the whole thing marginally more believable. (It also lends the opening flashback to the last normal moments before the monsters arrive a certain poignancy.) After all, it’s a straight-faced slightly-silly thriller about a mysterious critter that’s actually pretty easy to avoid, but people are just out for themselves and not thinking about sharing this information or even using it effectively if they do know. A solution that humanity nonetheless hasn’t figured out how to implement effectively? Yeah, sounds about right.

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