Knocked back a year by a certain, ongoing global pandemic, Part II is the follow-up to John Krasinski’s, 2018 film, A Quiet Place, the tale of a family’s survival in what’s a post-apocalyptic creature feature. The follow-up, finally hitting UK cinemas in the blend over between May and June, is a continuation of events seen in the first. Charting the Abbott family’s search for a new home amidst dealing with the grief from the loss of patriarch, Lee (Krasinski). The second part, in my opinion, faltered in its attempts at expanding the world – almost crumbling under the weight of its own ambitions.
Keeping things as spoiler-free as I possibly can on account of the fact it’s still incredibly early into its cinematic run, Part II broadens the scale exceptionally which is equally its own undoing. With a newborn now in tow, the two Abbott children and mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) leave their now decimated farm in search of remaining pockets of human life. This is a journey that reunites them with a family friend, Emmet (Cillian Murphy), a now widower turned reluctant action man/hero. Holed up, albeit temporarily, in an abandoned factory environment, the ragtag group split their time between continuing the search for a community of survivors and recovering from injuries sustained along the odyssey from home to pastures new.
Reflecting on the film and contrasting it against the first, things fall apart quite tremendously. For me, the first was a claustrophobic and really arresting thriller, a sentiment that is non-applicable for Part II. An amalgamation of factors, absolutely, but the main stake belongs to setting – it’s not as consistently tense this time out thanks to it being more free and sweeping rather than fixed to a specific location and as such, felt – like many a horror film in modern times – a branded pretender.
However, that’s a little by the by in fairness. Now a few days between watching and writing this, the time has allowed me to reflect a little and its story is, ironically enough, horrific. It seems to not quite know what exactly it’s aiming for and which direction it’s heading in, killing its pacing as a consequence. It’s a case where it’s honestly best to head in as ‘blind’ as possible, the marketing really showed its hand in full, taking the sting away from the later stages offering little to no substance. Returning to the note of pacing, it’s key to really nail that aspect when the runtime is one so relatively short, and unfortunately A Quiet Place Part II is an example of what failing in that department looks like. When there’s no real drive behind events, or equally, a complete void of joins between seemingly significant story beats, it can quite easily wash over its audience. It’s not exactly a catastrophic drop in quality as there are a few solid aspects (which I’ll get on to) but as both a standalone film and entry into what is already rumoured to become a trilogy, if not a franchise, it’s a seriously sub-par entry.
On the other hand, I’ll relent a little on my criticisms, the closure of the film is one that has some good potential if nothing more. An ending (which again, I won’t spoil) that takes advantage of its best features and strong performances, I can easily get on board with a possible third entry that’ll hopefully redeem itself.
So now, the good stuff! Perhaps it’s my man crush speaking but Cillian Murphy and his turn here is the best of the bunch. Having worked with master horror directors, such as Wes Craven, and starring in cult adored films, such as 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Red Eye, his long-awaited return to that specific genre is a welcome one. The substitute father figure archetype, it’s a role that asks for a demonstration of broad range, something comfortably shown by the Irish actor. It is a surprisingly physical performance, communicating via subtle expression or heading fully into grand action set-pieces, he steps into the role of ‘anchor’ with ease, carving himself out as a real highlight.
Akin to the first, the two impressive performances come by way of the ‘child stars’ (for lack of a better term), Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds. With the double pivot now the de facto leads of the franchise, they rise to the occasion and show some serious potential. Similar in fashion to Murphy’s, it’s a sign that they were gifted the most roundedness in the script, where their depth detracts from others. Leaving them with little to no support, they do realise the progression of these characters to a good standard and can take some pride in knowing that their performances here made the film serviceable if nothing more.
Also, it’s worth briefly noting how Krasinski’s screenwriting is violently random when it comes to enriching the film’s diegetic world. Almost lacking the confidence to splice in a possible ‘zombification’ subplot, despite many, unsubtle hints, relegating Blunt’s Evelyn to the sidelines and not adding enough meat to the bone where other support characters are concerned. It does feel a little like a first draft or at least it could’ve benefited from a few minutes extra to truly develop.
Although, bringing the tone back up a little, the cinematic experience was a pretty good one… though no film is worth the chaos of a socially distanced, max capacity Cineworld on a Friday night. Incredible sound design and stunningly filmed, the technical aspect alone is worth a watch, even if other elements are a little lacking.
Making a few steps to expand the world for future installments and boasting a handful of solid performances to boot, the disappointment wasn’t quite enough to turn me cold on the premise and it made for a decent enough cinematic experience.