by Rob DiCristino
It’s truly bizarre to finally be talking about John Krasinksi’s A Quiet Place Part II, a film initially slated for release the same week that global COVID-19 lockdowns began in earnest. Hell, we’ve been waiting for this film roughly as long as its characters have been living in the titular quiet place, a world rendered barren by an invading force of blind aliens — Yup, this one confirms that they’re aliens — who viciously attack anything that makes even the slightest of sounds. The film’s belated release can’t help but carry even greater weight in light of recent changes to U.S. safety regulations that hint at an imminent end to our collective trauma. We are all the Abbott family, it seems, a haggard group of survivors taking our first timid steps back into a world long believed to be uninhabitable. We’re counting on these delayed 2020 blockbusters to recalibrate our social barometers and remind us that, though things may never return to normal, we haven’t lost ourselves entirely.
In many ways, A Quiet Place Part II is most remarkable for what it doesn’t do. Unlike many sequels to unexpected genre hits, it limits expanded worldbuilding and deepened lore, instead remaining mostly focused on the characters we’ve already gotten to know. This is very much a Part II — a continuation of their story from the original film. Krasinski must have been tempted to flesh out his universe and provide answers to each and every one of the internet’s logistical questions, but he made the wiser choice and stuck to his central metaphor: the everyday perils of family life. Now without their patriarch, the Abbotts are bickering and listless, with Evelyn struggling to ensure their future together. And though Cillian Murphy initially feels like an ersatz Krasinski — a rugged father figure whose poor coping strategies give the film emotional stakes — his character quickly cedes the spotlight to Millicent Simmonds’ Regan, who is instead driven by purpose born of her growth in the original film.
There are times, however, when Krasinski’s impulse to keep things small conflicts with his dramatic goals. Cillian Murphy’s Emmett maintains that the world’s remaining survivors are not the kind of people worth saving, a cynical (though understandable) argument that comes to fruition when he and Regan are accosted by a group of savage wanderers. That concept is never fully explored, however, and our heroes subsequently make their way to — and are soon forced to defend — a peaceful island community led by Djimon Hounsou before any philosophical discussions on the merits of humanity can come to a conclusion. Moral ambiguity isn’t really in A Quiet Place’s wheelhouse, and Krasinski’s attempt to half-heartedly toy with those ideas distracts from a story already struggling to keep its late-game focus on the characters who matter. With Part II clocking in just over ninety minutes (another achievement for a hotly-anticipated sequel), every second needs to be spent efficiently.