John Krasinski's horror-thriller follow-up offers more of the same, but proves a tremendous showcase for actor Millicent Simmonds
Writer-director John Krasinski once said that if he had known he'd get to make A Quiet Place Part II, he wouldn’t have killed off his character at the end of the first film. After all, his Lee Abbott died so that his wife, Evelyn (Krasinski’s real-life partner Emily Blunt) and children – Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and their newborn baby – could survive. And so we begin the second film with a question mark: no Lee, yet still very many monsters… where do we go from here?
The answer is to a flashback, of course, as we return to the very start to see how this nightmare apocalypse began. At one of Marcus’ baseball games, the Abbotts, like the rest of the world, watch in horror at the dystopian sight of these lethal monsters falling from the sky. It's an opener that works well because, just like in the first movie, Krasinski hinges everything on the marrow-deep fear conveyed on the faces of his actors, and the terrifying sound design that zones in and out of frequency – just as it would for Regan, who is deaf.
Later, we return to exactly where we left off last time, as the remaining Abbotts attempt to find a way forward without the (bearded) man of the family leading the charge. It isn't long before a new (also bearded) man enters the fold, though, after the Abbotts stumble across his hideout. Emmett (played by Cillian Murphy) is a vague acquaintance who has lost his wife and children in the 400 plus days since the invasion.
What ensues is a bifurcated narrative – Regan sets off with Emmett to find a way out, while Evelyn and Marcus stay back with the baby. It’s fitting, but also painstakingly obvious, for a second movie in a franchise to split its attention between two parallel storylines. Krasinski’s filmmaking boasts the very best attributes of a paint-by-numbers masterpiece: it looks good, sounds immense, but you can’t help but notice how painfully straightforward it all is.
The biggest asset of this second chapter is Simmonds – the young actress telegraphs a striking combination of determination and fear like nobody else, carrying a movie at the ripe age of 18 alongside heavyweights such as Murphy and Blunt. If nothing else, the whole thing works as a tremendous, very handsome acting showcase – and with the oppressive, relentless monsters targeting our heroes, it's an unbelievably stressful one, too.
The success of A Quiet Place Part II completely hinges on whether you liked the first one – same logic (or lack thereof, when considering how the monsters function), same characters, same jump-scares, same tiny, infrequent bursts of relief and pathos. Krasinski leaves the door open for a third, fourth, perhaps even countless films to follow. But the suggestion that a wider universe is ready to unfold seems at odds with the series' taut and economical storytelling. Here's hoping this isn't another franchise set to overstay its welcome – better to end on a high note and disappear… quietly.
A Quiet Place Part II is released in UK cinemas on 3 June.Where to watch