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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

A Quiet Place Part II

The sequel to 2018's big horror hit is just as savvy, smart and engaging — and places just as much emphasis on silence.
By Sarah Ward
May 24, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
May 24, 2021
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When every noise you make could send savage aliens stalking, slashing and slaughtering your way, it's the waiting that gets you. When you're watching a nerve-rattling horror film about that exact scenario, the same sentiment remains relevant. In A Quiet Place, the Abbott family went into survival mode after vicious creatures invaded, hunted down every sound and dispensed with anyone that crossed their path. For the characters in and viewers of the 2018 hit alike, the experience couldn't have screamed louder with anxiety and anticipation. Evelyn and Lee (Wild Mountain Thyme's Emily Blunt and Detroit's John Krasinski) and their children Regan (Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck), Marcus (Noah Jupe, The Undoing) and Beau (Cade Woodward, Avengers: Endgame) all silently bided their time simply trying to stay safe and alive, but their continued existence lingered under a gut-wrenching shadow. The critters were still out there, listening for even a whisper. It was a matter of when, not if, they'd discern the slightest of noises and strike again. That type of waiting drips with tension and suspense, and also with the kind of inevitability that hovers over everyone alive. A certain bleak end awaits us all, a truth we routinely attempt to ignore; however, neither the Abbotts nor A Quiet Place's audience were allowed to forget that grim fact for even a moment.

Initially slated to arrive in cinemas two years later, then delayed by the pandemic for 14 months, sequel A Quiet Place Part II isn't done with waiting. The film doesn't shy away from the stress and existential distress that marking time can bring, but it also tasks its characters with actively confronting life's inevitabilities. After an intense and impressive tone-setting opening flashback to the first day of the alien attack, when the Abbotts' sleepy hometown learns of humanity's new threat in the cruellest fashion, the storyline picks up where its predecessor left off. It's day 474 — the earlier film spent most of its duration around day 472 — and Evelyn, Regan, Marcus and the family's newborn are grappling with their losses. That said, they're also keenly aware that they can't stay in their Appalachian farmhouse any longer. After spotting smoke on the horizon and setting off in that direction, they reconnect with Emmett (Cillian Murphy, Peaky Blinders), an old friend who has been through his own traumas. Evelyn sees safety in numbers, but he's reluctant to help. Then Regan hears a looping radio transmission playing 'Beyond the Sea' and decides to track down its source.

The plan: find other survivors, and also find a way to get the upper hand over their aggressors, all to stop spending their time simply waiting. A Quiet Place Part II isn't about making do, closing ranks and merely enduring, but about making a concerted choice to try to conquer an immensely difficult situation even when the odds seem insurmountable. No one can ultimately escape death, of course. Still, when it lurks in the form of extra-terrestrials who seem to have borrowed their resourcefulness and reflexes from Jurassic Park's raptors (and their ability to withstand most threats from Terminator 2: Judgment Day's killing machines), you can plan, prepare, fight and outsmart. The first film also used its alien attack story to explore the parental urge to protect children from life's harms, but here, writer/director/co-star Krasinski ponders the realisation that dawns upon all mums and dads eventually: that, despite their best efforts, their kids will always have to face the world's woes on their own terms.

Both formidable and maternal — because the 'strong female lead' trope shouldn't exclusively favour the former — Blunt is once again a force to be reckoned with as the doting, wearied but determined Evelyn. But, while she's given top billing, this isn't the Looper, Edge of Tomorrow and Sicario star's film. Krasinski doesn't just broaden out the movie's mindset, themes and slice of dystopian life, but also expands his focus. The feature's second half masterfully intertwines Evelyn's efforts to get supplies, Marcus' struggles while babysitting and Regan's perilous quest, and it's the latter that's given pride of place. And, once more, rising talent Simmonds is exceptional. With her character proving bold, poised and resolved to do her best for her family, the young actor radiates confidence, commitment and fortitude. Indeed, while she could've been left to play sidekick to Murphy in a surrogate father-daughter relationship, there's no doubting that Simmonds is the film's hero — whether or not her character, who is deaf, is using her hearing aid as a weapon.

Pushing Regan to the fore, and Simmonds with her, is a smart, savvy, engaging and rewarding move on Krasinski's part — and it's not the only choice he's made that earns that description. The film's aforementioned opening, including a particularly stunning shot set in the thick of the chaos, provides the type of spectacle that most movies can only dream of. (If the actor-turned-filmmaker wanted to dive headfirst into the action genre next, he'd have zero troubles settling in.) A Quiet Place Part II may spend more time squaring off against its aliens, rather than dwelling in a world where they'e an ever-present but often-unseen threat, but it never overplays its hand. In its fast-paced narrative, intimate visuals and pitch-perfect audio, it never simply rehashes its predecessor and hopes that the same successes will spring, either. The Abbotts' mission has evolved, as has the vivid cinematography (by Legion's Polly Morgan) that sees this post-apocalyptic world with a bittersweet eye, and the meticulous, characteristically silence-heavy soundscape as well. While the feature's potency and skill doesn't come as a surprise this time around, and neither does the unsettling unease that comes with all that waiting and those pervasive hushed tones, every second of this stellar sequel is no less thrilling.

 

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