Review of “A Quiet Place Part II”

There aren’t many things back to absolute normal yet. The theater chain closest to my home just announced customers that are fully vaxxed can go maskless to see a movie. They ask unvaxxed people to continue wearing a mask. They aren’t requiring proof of vaccination to go without a mask, so anyone could come in without a mask whether they have been vaccinated or not. As I sat in a theater, fully vaccinated since mid-April, with maybe half a dozen people watching “A Quiet Place Part II,” I wore my mask when I wasn’t enjoying my overpriced popcorn and soft drink. I’m fully trained to protect others despite my vaccination status and until this damnable plague is completely over, I will continue to wear a mask. I’m not being brave like the characters in “A Quiet Place Part II,” I’m actually trying to avoid catching a summer cold which is almost as bad as being attacked by the alien creatures in this movie.

After a flashback to the first day of the alien invasion, Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) and her children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and her infant son, set off toward the smoke from a signal fire near where they live after the death of her husband Lee (John Krasinski). Approaching an industrial area, Evelyn trips a homemade alarm made from cans and bottles. The family runs to avoid the approaching aliens that hunt their prey by sound. Marcus steps in a bear trap and the pain causes him to scream. Evelyn pries open the jaws, freeing Marcus, and they continue running as the alien’s approach. Entering a building, they are grabbed by Emmett (Cillian Murphy) and guided to a disused boiler where they can hide, and their voices will be hidden. Emmett tells the Abbotts they cannot stay as there isn’t enough food or water. Regan puts a set of headphones plugged in to a radio on Marcus and scans the dial using the white noise of static to calm him. She crosses a station that is playing music, something that hasn’t happened since the invasion, and Marcus stops her. Regan tracks the signal to a small station set on an island just offshore. Regan gets the idea to take her cochlear implant to the station and create the feedback she discovered could disorient the aliens and broadcast it across the area. She tells Marcus of her plan, but he says Evelyn wouldn’t allow it. Leaving in the middle of the night, Regan sets out on her own. Evelyn begs Emmett to go look for Regan and bring her back.

Writer/director John Krasinski has delivered a quality follow up to his 2017 “A Quiet Place.” The alien invasion/family drama/post-apocalyptic thriller was the kind of film that kept audiences silent which is a rare feat in this age where people feel comfortable talking back to the screen. “A Quiet Place Part II” doesn’t have quite the same silencing effect on the audience and it doesn’t need to. While there are similarities between the two stories, there’s more of a feel of adventure, a road trip quality that makes this a different experience.

This time, the family is split up with Regan on a journey to find the radio station, Evelyn making a trip into town to find antibiotics and oxygen bottles at the drugstore, and Marcus left at the factory to rest his injured leg and keep an eye on the baby. All three experience different adventures and emotional journeys. The most fulfilling is Regan and Emmett.

Fulfilling in the way all the characters grow and learn. Emmett is broken by the experience of the invasion and the losses he suffered in its aftermath. He is satisfied to hunker down in the abandoned factory, hiding in the boiler when aliens approach and living is relative safety. He wants the Abbott family gone as quickly as possible to return to his solitary existence and not be faced with losing anyone else. Chasing down Regan at the pleading behest of Evelyn, Emmett begins to realize how much of his humanity he’s abandoned for the illusion of safety. He has become selfish in his isolation and is challenged by Regan’s stubborn determination to reach the coast, find a boat and broadcast feedback, giving the survivors a chance to fight back.

Millicent Simmonds delivers another standout performance as Regan. Her expressiveness and fierceness burst from her hands and eyes as she delivers stinging opinions about Emmett cowardice and how he doesn’t measure up to her late father. While Emmett doesn’t understand sign language, we see her words via subtitles, something Emmett is lucky he lacks access to. This young actress deserves more roles as her presence is magnetic in every scene.

The movie is exciting and tense throughout, but I do have one nit to pick. Whenever an encounter with an alien is shown, the action slows to a crawl as the characters approach either an escape or a kill. They move extremely slowly, cautiously, as if trying to drag out the interaction. I don’t want to give anything away, but during the final showdown, the humans move as if in slow motion. There would seem to be an urgency to ending the confrontation and reducing the chance of more aliens using their echolocation to track down their prey. Instead, we get drawn out movements, lingering looks and lots of opportunities for something to go wrong. I’d like to believe it’s the characters being in some degree of shock due to the unbelievable circumstances they are in, but in reality, it’s Krasinski trying to build up the tension. If there’s anything I dislike about “A Quiet Place Part II,” it’s that.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is rated PG-13 for terror, violence and bloody/disturbing images. We see the beginnings of the invasion with people be swept aside by the aliens as if they were small toys. The injury sustained by Marcus and one inflicted on Evelyn late in the film are a bit gruesome, but not too bloody. We see various corpses that are in different states of decay. When the aliens are killed, their heads tend to explode in bloody messes.

Aside from dragging out the endings, “A Quiet Place Part II” does a great job of continuing the story of the Abbott family and adding Cillian Murphy’s Emmett. The small-town folks confronted by a seemingly unstoppable alien invasion is full of possibilities for more spinoff stories and at least one more film. If done correctly, we could get a tense but rousing finale to Krasinski’s trilogy.

“A Quiet Place Part II” gets four stars out of five.

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Review of “A Quiet Place”

Life on Earth is under attack from an alien creature that appears to have come here on board a meteor that crashed in Mexico. Covered in an apparently impenetrable exoskeleton, the creatures can’t see but have incredibly sensitive hearing. The slightest noise over and above the background gets their attention. They also can move very fast and have a mouth full of long sharp teeth. The aliens make life difficult for the survivors but the Abbott family is doing the best they can. Lee (John Krasinski), Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their kids Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward) live a life of silence and slow methodical movements. Beau being a child of about five can’t grasp all the dangers of this new world and makes a fatal mistake. While walking back to their home from town to get an ailing Marcus some antibiotics, Beau pulls out a toy he picked up at the drug store operated by batteries and turns it on. The model of the space shuttle makes a siren-like sound and attracts the aliens. Despite Lee’s efforts to save Beau he dies. A year later the family is continuing to scrape by at the farm they live on. Lee works on Regan’s cochlear implant trying to get it working again. He has made numerous efforts to repair it and failed. Regan, who gave Beau the toy after her father had taken it away from him and removed the batteries, feels Lee blames her for Beau’s death. He doesn’t but the stress of their life and Regan becoming a teenager is leading to conflicts. Lee has a workshop and security center set up in the basement of their home. He has monitors showing security camera feeds along with a shortwave radio he uses to try and contact anyone in the outside world. Evelyn is pregnant and due to deliver in a few weeks adding another threat to their silent life. Color-coded lights, sound-dampening sand on their pathways and communicating through American Sign Language might not be enough to keep this family together and alive.

The first trailer for “A Quiet Place” had me intrigued. The next trailer had me excited and dreading seeing the film a bit. Films that build tension and have you constantly guessing where the next threat will come from can be exhausting exercises. Found footage horror movies have worn me out in this regard as they never end happily, just with the promise of more fear and dread coming in the sequel. “A Quiet Place” manages to pile on the dread while giving you a glimmer of hope. It also tells an emotional family story that is punctuated by ravenous unstoppable monsters. It’s the best of both worlds.

John Krasinski not only stars but co-wrote and directed “A Quiet Place.” He is truly a triple threat in this film. His script is of course short on words. Most of the time communication is done via America Sign Language along with body movements. This forces the story to be told in other imaginative ways. We get the backstory from newspaper headlines we see in Lee’s security center. There a white board with scribbled facts about the monster and a desperate looking phrase “What is the WEAKNESS?” We see the weary looks on both Lee and Evelyn’s faces knowing they constantly worry about their day-to-day survival along with the future of their children. They all have dirty fingernails from having to do hard labor just to provide the basic necessities of life and they can’t waste precious resources like water for bathing and electricity to heat the water. The children are at times tired, frustrated and angry at their lives. We know they are both approaching puberty and that is hard enough when you don’t have monsters trying to hunt you down. The beauty of this script is storylines spin off within the mind of the viewer from watching these people exist. It isn’t all about the monsters as they really play a very minor role in the film. It’s about the family and the work they have to do to survive plus the struggles of just getting along. Krasinski along with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck have put a great deal of thought and work into their script and story even if there aren’t many words.

The performances of real life married couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are powerful and amazing. The love and desire this couple feels in their lives is clearly used to make their characters more connected and believable. There’s a scene where she makes him dance with her and they share a pair of earbuds from a portable music player. Their slow swaying and embrace may bring a tear to your eye as they share a rare moment of quiet passion. Lee winds up dancing more with the baby bump than his wife by the end of the scene but it is still a sweet and touching moment.

As good and Krasinski and Blunt are they are overshadowed by the amazing performance of Millicent Simmonds. Ms. Simmonds is deaf in real life. Her performance is all through her face, her motions and the way she communicates with sign language. A scene between her and Krasinski where he is giving her a hearing aid he had been working on is a prime example of just how good an actress Simmonds is. Her movements and body language show her anger, her impatience and her pain. Regan believes her father blames her for Beau’s death. While he doesn’t, he hasn’t made the extra effort to show her he loves her. All this is seen in this brief interaction between a father and daughter and that is due mostly to Millicent Simmonds talent. I hope her hearing doesn’t keep her from getting more roles as she is very talented.

It’s time for “Stan Thinks Too Much” corner. This alien invasion appears to have decimated the population and caused the collapse of infrastructure but the survivors still manage to have electricity. We never see a generator and of course that would cause lots of noise. It might be solar but we never see any panels. It seems unlikely the power grid would still be functioning so I wonder how they keep the lights on and the water flowing? Also during a scene in the film Evelyn manages to escape from one of the creatures by leaving a kitchen timer in the back of the room so the alien would chase that noise. Why didn’t they keep other noisemaking devices on them so they could set them off and throw them in the opposite direction for the monsters to chase? The ending of the film also made me wonder why it hadn’t been thought of before. I don’t want to give anything away but the method to kill these creatures seems perfectly clear from the first time you see them as they listen for the slightest noise out of the ordinary. And that concludes “Stan Thinks Too Much” corner.

“A Quiet Place” is rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody images. There are several times when members of the family are stalked by the creatures. We see a raccoon get smashed by a monster with an accompanying splash of blood. We see a body in the forest that has been attack with a gaping wound in its side. There’s some blood associated with the birth of a baby. The monster’s anatomy is a bit disgusting to look at. There is no foul language as there is very little language of any kind.

John Krasinski has created a rare and wonderful thing: A horror movie that is both smart and scary. It also manages to be warm, emotional and mostly about a family just trying to survive. It works on just about every level. While I do have some questions and “I wonder why’s” about a few things they don’t take away from what is a fantastically tense movie. See it friends or in a full theater for a complete experience.

“A Quiet Place” gets five stars.

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