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A Quiet Place Part II (2021) - Movie Review

A Quiet Place Part II (2021) - Movie Review
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PLOT: Picking up almost immediately after the events of the first film, Evelyn Abbott and her two children find themselves without a home or the family patriarch. Making their way into the terrifying outside world that is overrun with monsters, they make contact with a figure from their past whose reluctance to help them may bring about their doom.

REVIEW: You can count me among the many who were suitably impressed with the work John Krasinski did on A Quiet Place. Its small scale, heartfelt story told against an epic apocalyptic backdrop was a tight, nerve-jangling piece of pop entertainment helmed by someone in clear command of the medium. Safe to say no one expected Krasinski to announce himself as a filmmaker to be reckoned with, considering there was no true indication of that to be found in his previous directorial efforts; A Quiet Place stunned a lot of us with its lean, mean efficiency.

Happy to say it wasn't a fluke. Krasinski once again proves an impressive builder of sensationally effective set pieces with A Quiet Place Part II, which is refreshingly just as no frills in terms of story as the first film, yet just as compelling. It being a sequel, there was always the danger of losing some of the freshness of the first chapter, but it picks up where the last one left off so effortlessly that it feels more of a continuation of that story than a predictable Part II. What's more, Krasinski (who wrote the screenplay solo this time around) thankfully avoids the "bigger is better" mantra most Hollywood sequels subscribe to, keeping its focus directly on our returning protagonists while still widening the scope of the world to give us a better idea of what's going on beyond the Abbott farm.

Stop reading now, obviously, if you haven't seen the first film, because I'm about to spoil that, at the end of it, devoted father and husband Lee (Krasinski) sacrifices himself to the sound-hungry monsters to save his children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe). Soon after, Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Regan discover the latter's hearing aid, when pressed against a microphone, emits an ear-splitting feedback that disorients the monsters to the point of incapacitation. It was a thrilling finale, one leaving you begging for more, and when A Quiet Place II begins we... well, we have to wait a moment to see what happens, because first we're brought to Day 1.

Krasinski kicks off the movie with a frightening prologue, which begins with a slice of pure Americana as Lee, Evelyn and the rest of their small town attend a baseball game, and ends with the monsters arriving from above. It's a sequence worthy of vintage Spielberg (certainly some shades of War of the Worlds here), and it perfectly sets the tone for a movie that will be alternately scary and sentimental. These films wouldn't move us if we didn't care about the Abbotts, and a brief look at their happier life before it all went to hell hammers home that we're invested in their survival.

Yet Krasinski doesn't take it easy on the remaining Abbotts, oh no. Perhaps more so than the first go-round, A Quiet Place II is merciless in the trauma it inflicts on these poor folks, hurling them into countless near-death experiences and almost giving us, the audience, a collective heart attack in the process. It's a testament to how well made A Quiet Place II is that we're constantly on edge, believing it's possible Krasinski will do the unthinkable to these courageous but palpably exhausted people. And Krasinski's actors are more than up to the task. Emily Blunt is as riveting as ever, although Evelyn is surprisingly more of a supporting player here, leaving Simmonds and Jupe to be the central figures of the story, and both young actors perform quite admirably, delivering two excellent performances filled with poignancy, distress, and sometimes considerable anguish.

There's a new man in town as well. The surviving Abbotts encounter Everett (a solid Cillian Murphy), an old friend from the before days, and their initial meeting with him is far from pleasant (there's a moment that will have the entire audience gasping in disbelief). Everett has clearly seen some bad stuff, and his sanity may be questionable at best, but he's the only port in a storm that keeps growing more foreboding. Soon after we meet Everett, Krasinski makes the interesting decision to separate our characters, giving us a three-pronged attack on the senses as we follow each character running afoul of dire threats, both alien and human. (Yes, we finally get a good look at some of the other folks in town who haven't fared so well, and they're not pretty.) It's a bold strategy that absolutely pays off, and the editing work by Michael P. Shawver should be applauded. Without spoiling anything, there are prolonged sequences in the second and third acts that cut feverishly between each subplot, all of them building to an unbearable crescendo, and Krasinski and Shawver do not botch the delicate balancing act one bit.

As for the monsters, they're just as creepy and fascinating as they were in the first film. Fortunately, Krasinski resists the urge to give us more background on them, content to keep them the unholy, unexplainable terrors they are. These movies are refreshingly low on exposition and unnecessary backstory, instead just trusting us to go along for the ride. At the end of the day, we still don't know all that much about our central family aside from the bare basics, but that's part of the franchise's allure. Krasinski is interested in the small dramas and horror scenarios, the skin-crawling details (remember the nail in the first one?), and as long as those moments are pulled off crisply, we're completely engaged in the experience.  

The third act as a whole doesn't quite have the raw power of the previous two, but in the film's final minutes Krasinski once again gives us a conclusion that's as nail-biting as it is satisfying. For all their admirable ferocity, these movies still have to be crowd pleasers, and we don't get shorted here. I'll just add that seeing the film on a big screen, featuring the incredible sound a movie theater provides, was a wonderful time, as A Quiet Place II is indeed a movie designed for the theatrical experience. It's beautifully shot, the sound design is second to none, it's short and sweet (97 minutes!), and it's positively successful in what it sets out to do from start to finish. A Quiet Place Part II is superb entertainment.

A QUIET PLACE PART II opens in theaters everywhere on May 28th.

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