I genuinely didn’t think the director of Leatherheads and The Hollars could pull this off.
A Quiet Place dropped in 2018 to resounding applause. My theatre was silent, adherent to the oppressive hum of the world without noise while we all participated in Krasinski’s film. He’s back to bring us a second chapter in this saga, one that builds upon the immediate aftermath of the first film with a sense of guilt and grief. There’s absolutely nothing surprising about the narrative (one that simply adds the the 2018 film), so the character work does the heavy lifting here.
The film opens on the initial crash of an alien starship, one witnessed by Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) and his family. It gives an origin for the sound-based creatures from the first film, but little about it matters outside of creating a ghost out of Lee. This is a haunted film, one tortured by the ghost of a loving father, and it’s laden with painful references to his existence. We’re introduced to his friend, Emmett (Cillian Murphy), and shown a wider scope of existence in the aftermath of the crash. Small communities are established, lines drawn, and survival becomes a thing to wager against decency.
So now that the synopsis is out of the way we can talk about Millicent Simmonds, who is the main reason to watch A Quiet Place: Part II.
It’s hard to play a deaf woman in a film when you can hear. Krasinski’s answer? Just hire a deaf woman! It worked like a charm three years ago, but in this sequel she rises to become the main character in a film populated by wonderful actors. It works like a charm, leaving Emily Blunt to pick up the side plot. This is an unfortunate frustration, as each balanced plotline of A Quiet Place: Part II is meant to synchronize with the others, but when you have such a wonderful performance it becomes hard to have anyone else hold the story. Luckily this isn’t an ego show, with Blunt doing a wonderful job but containing her role so Millicent Simmonds can shine. Children become adults, adults begin scraping out an existence, and aliens (apparently) hunt down any tiny shift in movement while our performers struggle to remain relevant in a landscape built on sound design.
And let’s talk about the hero of our show.
I’m a pretty huge David Lynch fan; sound design is no stranger to my ears. Rarely do I get a film completely built on sound design, one that is built into the very concept of the film. A Quiet Place sent noisy filmgoers running for the hills, but the sequel sends us running for the hills as Krasinski bombards us with the audible gasps of silence. Each moment is built on more intense, deafening action than the first film; all of the audio feeling like a bombardment on the senses. It’s helped by a sweetly distracting score by Marco Beltrami, who scored the original. All viewers will exist in a space between quilt-ridden silence and aggressive acting-out, but both are legitimate reactions to the film.
Nothing about A Quiet Place: Part II is going to feel special or unique. It’s an interesting film that’s built on its predecessor to a slavishly loyal degree. Whether or not you like this is going to depend on whether or not you enjoyed the first film. See it in theatres while you have time, but know that a solid double-feature is possible when it hits streaming.