A Quiet Place Part II

★★★★1/2

John Krasinski quietly stumbled upon a huge hit in 2018.

Teaming up with his wife Emily Blunt, he starred and directed “A Quiet Place,” the innovative alien thriller that had audiences on the edge of their seats and earned more than $300 million worldwide on a tiny budget of $17 million.

When the studio asked him to work on the sequel, he brushed it off, saying his movie was meant to be a one-off.

But an idea began brewing in his brain and he returned to the director’s chair for “A Quiet Place Part II”

And we are glad he did but it is everything a good sequel should be.

It delivers many of the same thrills and feelings from the previous breakout hit while expanding the movie’s universe and justifying its existence in the first place.

At only 90 minutes long, there’s not much time to linger in quiet moments and there isn’t a wasted scene or moment. There’s not one thing I’d cut. And the abrupt but powerful ending leads audiences to say, “They better start filming the next one!”

(Apparently writer/director Jeff Nichols of “Mud” will lead the third installment, which hasn’t begun filming.)

After a flashback introduction featuring Krasinski, the sequel picks up shortly where the first one left off. Emily Blunt reprises her role as matriarch Evelyn, leading her two children Marcus and Regan, played by Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds, out of danger quietly. They have discovered a way to paralyze the blind aliens that can hear long distances by using a hearing aid put up to a microphone. Adding to the tension is the fact that there’s a newborn child along for the ride, one that cries at times.

(Side note: it did throw me off how much older Jupe and Simmonds look in the sequel. The first movie was filmed in 2017 when they were 12 and 14 respectively. The sequel was shot in 2019 and they clearly have grown quite a bit in those two years. Yet in the timeline of the movie maybe only a few days has passed. I got over it quickly, but it did make me do a double take.)

The trio accidentally stumble upon an old family friend Emmett, played by Cillian Murphy. They decide to hole up in his underground shelter, complete with a soundproof safe that shields them from harm. They bring along oxygen tanks so they can still breathe while locked in the airtight metal container.

Marcus discovers a song played on a loop on the radio and Regan deciphers the code and believes there’s a society of people living on an island nearby. She treks out on a journey alone while Emmett tracks her down. Mother and son have their own suspenseful side story while the two are away.

The daughter is the real star of the sequel and most of the biggest developments are driven by her character.

Blunt, who should have been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the first movie, is relegated to a smaller role this time.

I had assumed that Krasinski would have received a rather large bump in his production budget but that wasn’t the case. Apparently he shot this sequel for about $20 million which is impressive given the top-notch special effects. Every penny is up there on the screen (I believe Krasinski and Blunt are earning their payday with a cut of the box office).

Unlike the first movie which took place mostly at night, you are able to see the monsters in intricate detail in bright daylight. The CGI is very well done.

The sequel has tremendous sound design, which was also the case with the first one (which was Oscar nominated). The thumps and crashes reverberate through your seats. I literally felt the vibrations in the movie theater. This is a reason to watch this at home (even if you have an amazing 5.1 surround sound system, many of us don’t want the neighbors or other people in our homes complaining about the volume.)

The first movie was much deeper than the sequel, which a richer storyline that explored themes of being a parent and accepting loss. Krasinski said he was influenced by “No Country For Old Men,” “Alien” and “In The Bedroom.”

The sequel is more about finding a home.

The opening flashback shows families watching their children play Little League baseball on a summer day in a small Appalachian town. It feels like Americana, like the town of Derry in “IT.” The characters in the movie might be longer for a world that no longer exists but audiences too remember what it’s like to have to hide in isolation and missing those lively crowds of people. While we are getting to slowly return to the world we once knew, there’s no option like that for the characters of “A Quiet Place Part II” and even an idyllic oasis turns out to be full of false hope.

Krasinski has solidified himself as a top-notch director, able to mix big budget special effects and action sequences with realistic human emotions. My only real complaint is that I’m not sure he’s found his own voice. I see influences all over in this film, which isn’t a bad thing. The opening attack reminded me of Stephen Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” and the wandering through the desolate woods with wreckage behind reminded me the video game “The Last of Us.” And the mysterious radio signal, the planned community refuge and the bearded band of hostiles along the docks all reminded me of scenes from the TV show “Lost.”

And obviously many will see comparisons to the hit TV show “The Walking Dead” but to be fair that show that failed to display the visual flair to match Krasinski’s since director Frank Darabont left the series. “A Quiet Place Part II” makes you realize the potential “The Walking Dead” has squandered in its later years.

It’s possible I could be rating this movie way too high but my excitement leaving the theater was palpable. COVID-19 has hit all of us really hard and — while it’s not the most important thing — movie lovers have missed have a reason to go to a theater. Yes, theaters have been open for months but even if you didn’t worry about the risk of infection the quality of the movies didn’t justify a trip. Many of the cinematic offerings were also available on streaming and did have the grand spectacle that warranted a big screen.

I saw two movies in theaters myself: “Tenet” and “Nomadland.” The first was a massive disappointment and wasn’t worth seeing on any size screen for me. “Nomadland” was beautiful on a large screen but I think I enjoyed it nearly as much on Hulu shortly after.

This is a movie that demands to be seen on a big screen.

“A Quiet Place Part II” might single-handedly bring back the box office.

The first movie blew audiences away three years ago and it was truly an experience you had to have in a theater. It was strange to be sitting in a movie theater that was so quiet you could hear other patrons breathing. I remember I went to a 10 p.m. screening at Flix Brewhouse, which has a policy of no children after 9 p.m. I was relieved when a manager informed two parents of this rule when they brought along a talkative two-year-old. (I have a talkative two-year-old daughter myself but I haven’t taken her to a movie theater yet, let alone a quiet movie meant for adults late at night).

While it might not feel as fresh as the original, that’s no fault to Krasinski. There’s nothing he should have done different with this sequel and now it’s just time to watch for another installment.

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