Director – John Krasinski – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m
A family move out from their isolated farm on an Earth where alien predators hunt by sound – in cinemas from Thursday, June 3rd 2021
There are obvious differences between this film and its predecessor, the near flawless A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018) about a family surviving alien predators who hunt by sound, put together pretty much by the same director, writers, cast and crew. The first film was – well, a first film with nothing to live up to. When it became a colossal success and Hollywood clamoured for the inevitable sequel, the second film had to somehow be as potent and effective as the first but inevitably doesn’t have the opportunity to introduce the world and the characters because that’s been done.
That much is obvious without seeing the new film. There are other differences though. Firstly, the sequel leaves the safety of the farm where AQP mostly took place as Evelyn Abbot (Emily Blunt) and her two kids Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) venture out to find out what’s happening beyond their farm. They don’t really have any other option since their farm was overrun by aliens at the end of AQP. At some point, they run into widower Emmett (Cillian Murphy) who has never really got over the loss of his wife and is neither family- nor community-minded. With Marcus’ leg injury from a man-trap forcing his stay at a fixed place, the family are taken in by the initially reluctant Emmett to share his makeshift home, a seal-able furnace in an abandoned steel factory.
Soon, however, Regan’s checking the airwaves leads to her discovery of a station that’s actually broadcasting, albeit one record (Bobby Darin’s rendition of Beyond The Sea) over and over again. She checks the station’s whereabouts on a map and sets out towards it, accompanied by Emmett, to continue the film’s road movie structure as one narrative strand while the remaining family members stay behind in a parallel strand loosely reminiscent of the first film, albeit a lot more precarious.
As well as covering a broader geographical area than AQP and being constantly on the move, this is much more open (i.e. not on or inside a farm or other enclosed space most of the time) with much of it taking place in broad daylight. Where the first film worked on the time-honoured monster film principle of shooting lots of scenes either in darkness where the monster can’t easily be fully seen or in daylight where the monster goes past so fast that, again, they can barely be seen, the new one knows that we’re fascinated by these creatures and allows us to see a lot more of them, often rampaging through large groups of people in densely populated urban areas. Two specific areas, actually.
The final reel has a haven where people have worked out a way of keeping the creatures at bay and are living without fear of them attacking, a location which introduces an unnamed character played by actor Djimon Hounsou. However, like the door-opening raptors in Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993), these predators are smart and can work out how to overcome obstacles. So it’s only a matter of time before this sanctuary becomes distinctly unsafe and monster attack mayhem ensues.
That’s the second area, because the film makers can’t resist a prequel sequence of the town seen in disarray at the start of AQP on the day the aliens first appear. Nothing much happens for the first few minutes – the family drive around then go to watch Marcus play at a local baseball game where we’re introduced to Emmett. There’s a breaking news report on a restaurant TV of a building disaster (a meteor strike?) in the Far East, then the baseball game grinds to a halt as a giant fireball streaks through the clouds. As everyone is dispersing onto the street and into their cars…wham! Monsters! Mayhem!
This is also an excuse to feature Evelyn’s husband Lee (John Krasinski, the film’s writer and director as well as Blunt’s real life husband) whose character didn’t make it through the first film. It’s a great sequence which sets the tone for what is to follow and which, to be honest, might have been rather too much of a showstopper had it been part of the opening of the generally much lower key first film. So no complaints from me!
Further edge of the seat sequences in between these two are peppered throughout. AQPII ups its action quotient, but never at the expense of developing character. That said, the family dynamics here aren’t quite as compelling as those in AQP with the result that AQPII feels more like a series of action set pieces one after the other. The special effects are state of the art and these sequences are as enthralling as anything in the first film, yet somehow as a whole it’s not quite as satisfying as the original. This might be to do with a general cutting back on the use of sign language dialogue which helped give the original its unique take on hearing disability, an element which – pardon the pun – doesn’t come though quite so loud and clear here.
That said, this certainly delivers in terms of both shocks and scares and monster mayhem – and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.
A Quiet Place Part II is out in cinemas in the UK Thursday, June 3rd 2021.