In 2018 A Quiet Place crept into our cinemas with little more than a wisper. The modestly budgeted project from writer/director/actor John Krasinski had limited marketing flexibility so it really was a sleeper hit. And a hit it was. A masterful and creative take on the popular post-apocalyptic, near-future genre. Using audio and visuals in ways that reduced even the most raucous audience to holding their breath for minutes at a time, neglecting their popcorn for fear of incurring the wrath of the room. Three years later, after months of delays and set-backs, we finally got to see the next chapter in the Abbott family’s story, and if one thing is for sure, waiting for the cinemas to re-open was the right call – for there couldn’t be a more perfect example of why the big screen is still very much alive.
“Day 1”. The open title card says everything you need to know about what’s about to happen. Where the first time round, we caught up with our characters long after shit had hit the fan, this time we get a glimpse of the event that changed the world, the arrival of the blind, sound-hunting creatures. If ever there was a better opening sequence than that of Part 1, it’s this. A dreamy introduction, full of warmth and charm, that lazy Sunday glaze, punctuated by a wonderfully timed jump-scare. From here on in, the amped up budget is on full display as Krasinski’s Lee and Emily Blunt’s Evelyn scramble desperately to escape the carnage, protecting the kids at all costs. As is to be expected, the sound-design is utilised expertly and with the additional upgrade in visuals, the chaos is visceral. Palpable. Filmmakers take note, these opening 10 minutes are the definition of impact.
The expansion of the world here is limited to only a few miles, mirroring the contained, isolated setting of Part 1 and the cast remains small, with the narrative focus lingering on the Abbotts. The family however is fractured this time round with Regan (Millicent Simmonds), paired with Cillian Murphy’s Emmett, venturing away from safety in search of people to help and Evelyn and Marcus (Noah Jupe) taking refuge in a confined bunker with the baby. These two stories run in parallel for the rest of the film and Krasinski’s ability to retain tension across both narratives is expertly done, the cuts between them increasing in frequency as the music and the stakes rise. Any moment of respite (where you may want to exhale and sneak a couple of mouthfuls of popcorn) is short-lived. The pressure really is relentless so be ready to walk away from this film with your nerves well and truly frayed. The creativity on display in the approach to the sound-design and how our characters combat the creatures is a delight and prevents the central idea from feeling stale. Each set-piece feels wonderfully unique. The musical element is also pivotal in creating the intense atmosphere that dominates the film and the score by Marco Beltrami is skilfully composed. Relentless as the tension is, never is it fatiguing or too much. The music ebbs and flows in volume and pace, sometimes building up to an impactful moment, sometimes out of nowhere to compound a jump scare, often dropping out completely in service of the scene. Every note, or lack thereof, is mindfully selected and placed, elevating the film.
The performances across the board are nothing short of phenomenal. Blunt’s restrained yet fierce maternal character is beautifully pitched, a woman who will do anything for her children, regardless of her weakness in the aftermath of a traumatic childbirth. Krasinski makes a brief return in the opening flashback sequence and is as compelling as ever, with a few gentle character beats and some fun action work, his demise in Part 1 making these moments all the more poignant, especially those with his daughter. Simmonds and Jupe have both improved with age and are given some meatier scenes to work within, especially Simmonds who is arguably the lead this time round and manages to go toe-to-toe with Hollywood veterans fluently. The one key newcomer to the cast is Cillian Murphy as Emmett, a grief-stricken, broken man. Once a friend of the Abbotts, surviving alone in an abandoned factory. As ever, Murphy inhabits the character effortlessly, playing in shades of darkness, pathos and heroism, making him potentially the most layered character of the film. Though the action is heavier and the pace is more propellant than the first film, the human characters are still at the forefront of the story and the themes at play remain about family and enduring love. Every arch is earned and given plenty of time to ruminate and develop and the cast do a faultless job in actualising these characters on screen.
Ruling – There are plenty of examples of films that didn’t need a sequel but got one anyway. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not so much. Fortunately, this falls into the former camp. Not only does it work, it feels perfectly natural. Organic. As if this was the plan all along. Nothing is forced or contrived in service of churning out a second story. It picks up from the minute the first film ends and flows into this without so much as a stumble. Call-backs to the opening flashback alongside themes and ideas brought forward and evolved from the first film make it feel of a piece with it’s predecessor. I’m sure if Krasinski does a third, we’ll enjoy a whole new batch of ideas, utilising this simple yet abundantly fertile premise.