John Krasinski really broke out into the mainstream in an major way in 2018 with his directorial debut A Quiet Place. While not necessarily the most original or logical film in the world, it was one heck of a display of his dramatic bonafides that immediately raised him to a place of distinction among a year filled with great suspense movies and horror flicks!
The premise was simple: a family is surviving in the post-apocalypse because, as it turns out, a race of alien monsters have touched down that track down humans based on their sense of hearing.
As luck with have it, the Abbot family is uniquely well suited to this apocalypse because they all learned sign-language to help the family’s daughter and they’re in a good position to wait out the apocalypse in their family farm, so long as they don’t make a sound.
Naturally, the film milks this premise for every ounce of dramatic tension humanly possible. It works out the logistics of everything from how this family handles raising a newborn baby to how the family learns to deal with sudden and unsuspected pain when any yelp or scream could attract the monsters.
Of course, this premise does create a problem for any potential sequel. That first movie really does milk every idea in the world to figure out a scenario where it’s premise could work and then makes it as dramatic as possible. Given what happens in that film, how is it possible to make a sequel?
As it turns out, Krasinski quite admirably answers that question by finding a whole new story to tell with these characters. While the central motif of “family” in the first film is largely left by the wayside here to tell a new story in the style of something like Logan or The Last of Us wherein a male authority figure takes a young girl on a quest that could save her world.
A Quiet Place Part II pretty much establishes from the outset that the Abbott family is in deep trouble after the events of the first movie. Their homestead is effectively ruined and they need to go to it into the world to find someone who can help take care of their family now that their resources and ability to provide have been put in danger.
When the family stumbles upon an old family friend named Emmett (Cillian Murphy) holed up at a local steel mill, the group splits in two as they realize they might’ve found a method to defeat the monsters en mass.
While the Abbot family’s daughter Regen goes on her personal quest, her mother Evelyn Abbot is left the precarious task of caring for an injured son and a baby who needs a steady supply of oxygen in order to keep from being heard by the monsters. As a result, she goes on a personal quest into town to the pharmacy to track down desperately needed supplies.
The film as a whole is a tightly knit work of dramatic storytelling much like it’s predecessor. I haven’t seen the first A Quiet Place in 3 years though so I will admit the first act is a bit clunky. I suspect the film requires some foreknowledge about the events of the first movie to make total sense.
That first twenty minutes in particular felt very clunky. After a short prologue that offers some insight into the nature of the alien invasion, the film picks up seconds after the ending of the first film and goes from there. The film doesn’t really find itself until the thirty minute mark (roughly) where Regen works out her quest story and drags Emmett along for the ride.
Thankfully, Emmett really does serve as an amazing antithesis to the Abbott family. Despite all of his survival skills, his entire family has died and left him alone to survive. He’s deeply in tune with his circumstances and has all but lost all hope in survival or fighting back. When he stumbles upon the bizarrely we’ll adjusted Abbot family, he can’t help but feel cynical and demands they leave before they use up his supplies.
In some ways, the film is really a story about his redemption. It’s a film wherein his hopelessness is questioned and the possibility of hope is brought back to life despite the horrific circumstances that have transpired around them.
As a result, the film REALLY earns its finale. No detail or line of dialog is wasted. Every setup is paid off and every ounce of suspense is milked out of this scenerio. Even with a massive hole in the center of the film following the death of the previous film’s protagonist, this film finds new ways to tell its story and really explore just how deep its characters are.