Movie review: ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ a missed opportunity to expand story
Three years ago, "The Office" star John Krasinski planted his flag as a big-budget genre filmmaker with the high-concept, sound-based monster movie "A Quiet Place." The film, written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck with Krasinski, was a piece of well-crafted schlock, impeccably sound-designed and shot, starring Krasinski's wife Emily Blunt in an effortfully near-silent performance. Co-starring deaf actress Millicent Simmonds as their daughter Regan, the use of sign language and hearing aids made for some innovative visual storytelling and monster fighting. But lift the hood on "A Quiet Place," and it doesn't stand up to scrutiny. The film has a single idea, the character and story choices reverse-engineered to stuff drama into a dangerous, yet inherently staid situation. Suffused with a deeply earnest sense of self-seriousness but not a shred of humor, camp, or self-awareness, "A Quiet Place" is horror for people who don't seem to like horror all that much.
"A Quiet Place Part II" offers the chance to take the concept and run with it, but in keeping with his own characters' moronic decision-making, writer/director Krasinski instead stays right where he started, offering up a film that would have been the next 90 minutes of "A Quiet Place." The events of "Part II" occur immediately after the events of the first film, with a short "Day 1" prologue that reverse-engineers Krasinski back on screen.
The prologue is profoundly confounding, simultaneously the best and worst part of the film. Certain aspects don't quite jive with the timeline, but what's most frustrating is that as the aliens alight on this picturesque small town for the first time, we finally get some thrills and chills. Though Krasinski gratuitously grants himself a Michael Bay-style hero shot (it is produced by Bay's imprint Platinum Dunes), as the aliens rip through town, the action is captured in incredibly exciting long takes, offering a promising version of a classic Godzilla-style attack on Americana that would have been an interesting twist on the monster genre, with plenty of gore and action.
But instead of remaining in this mode, we're transported all too quickly back to Day 474 to creep around an old farmhouse, barefoot. The fact that none of the family ever wear shoes, ostensibly to minimize sound, becomes an annoying and unnecessary tic: there are more shots of dirty bare feet than a Quentin Tarantino film (and that's saying something). Their flooded home littered with alien carcasses left from the climax of the first film, Evelyn (Blunt) and her children make their way to the next house over, looking for shelter and help. Krasinski quickly subs in new daddy figure, Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a neighbor who has been camping out in an abandoned steel mill sketching drawings of his dead children.
Once there, they proceed to do the things they always do: whisper, creep, keep a baby in a cooler outfitted with an oxygen tank. We watch as they collect medicines, get stuck in dumb places and embark on stupidly heroic missions, beckoned by the sound of Bobby Darin crooning "Beyond the Sea" over and over again on the radio, another beacon. Everything is unnecessarily complicated and bound to go wrong at some point even without the lethally murderous sound aliens; it's obviously written this way to try and eke out a drop of drama or suspense where Krasinski could otherwise write none.
What's so maddening about "A Quiet Place Part II" is the unused potential. Krasinski opens up the world and timeline of the film, but doesn't utilize it in any meaningful way, introducing new ideas but then jettisoning the opportunity. Again and again he falls back on more of the same old tricks from "A Quiet Place," which was a bore to begin with.
"A Quiet Place Part II" is rated PG-13 for terror, violence and bloody/disturbing images. Running time: 97 minutes.