A Quiet Place Part II opens marvelously with a shot of small town America. Main Street is dead. Nothing moves, other than the American flag flapping in a lonely breeze. Then a pickup in a real hurry zooms into frame, parks, and out jumps Lee Abbott (John Krasinski), who’s supposed to be dead.
Instead, he does a fast walk down an empty sidewalk and enters a store to … buy some snacks.
This is Day 1 of the alien invasion. We’re watching a short prequel, a flashback, and even though we know who lives and who doesn’t, the sequence is still a stunner.
At a precise moment that leaves us wanting more (in a good way), we leap to day 474, to the exact moment 2018’s out-of-nowhere, smash-hit original ended. Lee is dead, the family farm is ravaged, and in order to survive in a world where noise equals a grisly death, the Abbott family has no choice other than to swallow their grief and move on.
The “family,” of course, is matriarch Evelyn (a terrific Emily Blunt), daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and a newborn baby whose birth cost this family so much.
Unfortunately, Part II never rises again to the greatness of its opening moments, much less to its superb predecessor. Even at a lean, mean 97 minutes, the second act drags while the amped up conclusion only felt serviceable.
One big plus is the addition of Cillian Murphy. He portrays Emmett, a former neighbor, one of those characters whose motives you can never be sure of. What he ends up becoming is a nice surprise.
Another nice surprise is how writer, director Krasinski makes a move counterintuitive to what we’ve come to expect from an entertainment industry diseased by the trash heap of oppressive woketard politics. With Lee dead, with the patriarch out of the way, I was certain the sequel would be all about The Matriarchy Taking Care of Business. It’s not, thank heaven. Krasinski stays true to the themes that made the original such a cut above the standard horror entry. Family is still everything, which means men still matter, fathers still matter, and boys must become men.
Oh, and few things make me happier than seeing women and teens brandishing firearms.
The movie’s primary weakness is how relentlessly plot-driven it is. Krasinski’s determined to expand the mythology of his world and then land at a very specific cliffhanger, so his characters are moved around like chess pieces and, time and again, you keep asking yourself, Why? As in… Why get on the train instead of walk around it? Why leave in the first place when there’s no reason you can’t wait a few days until everyone can join you? Why are you leaving a safe place to walk around a frightening warehouse? Why a flimsy towel to ensure you’re not locked in instead of something permanent?
Even the Abbott family’s decision to leave the family farm was baffling. Sure, the place is damaged, but it’s not unlivable. You had a baby 20 minutes ago, why not wait a few days? Why risk an excursion when you still have shelter and plenty of food? Why are you still running around in bare feet? Did we not learn in Part I why that’s more risky than a pair of rubber-soled tennis shoes?
When Emmett warns, You have no idea what’s happened to people out there, how they’ve changed, it sadly turns out that anyone who’s seen an end-of-world thriller knows exactly how they’ve changed.
As far as the main characters, who were so wonderfully developed in the original, here they tread water., except for one — who finally comes alive with some tacked-on bravery and determination at the last moment (but only to serve the plot) — from beginning to end they’re stuck on who they are and this makes the story feel episodic, makes everything a mere set-up for the expected set-pieces necessary in a Big Summer Movie.
Most of all, Part II feels like a placeholder for Part III, which is already in development.
A Quiet Place Part II has its tense moments, top-shelf production values, an affection for Rural America and Americans, and is a woke-free zone. That’s not nothing and its sure felt good to be in a crowded theater again… It surely did.