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A Quiet Place Part II (2021)::rating::4.5::rating::4.5

Whenever somebody announces a sequel to a good movie, I generally give a deep sigh of disappointment. For every Empire Strikes Back or Godfather II, there are ten bad Rocky, Terminator, or Matrix sequels. The first Quiet Place film was such a refreshing rush of adrenaline, and I truly hoped that another trip to the well wouldn’t dilute its legacy, or–even worse–ruin its watchability forever.

Well, I’m pleased to report that this second riot of Quiet actually serves the exact purpose of a good sequel: Writer-director John Krasinski builds on and up, expanding his story without dampening the magic that made it good in the first place. It hits and holds the same unbearable tension of the first film, and will leave you wanting more. How many Part Deux can you say that about?

I’m afraid I can’t unpack the plot of Part II without touching on Part I, so now’s a good excuse for me to type in bold, funky colors: SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen the first Quiet Place, git on outta here, dad’gummit! Go stream it; I promise you won’t be sorry.

Now that we’re down to the initiated, let’s continue: This second film begins with a flashback, whisking us to a time before a horde of ravenous, blind aliens transformed the Earth into a silent, smoldering husk. We see Lee (Krasinski) going about a typical day in small-town America. He runs errands with Regan (Millicent Simmonds), his deaf daughter, and scrambles to see his son Marcus’ little league game. The film also introduces us to Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a close family friend, and shows a tantalizing snippet of domestic tranquility for Lee and Evelyn (Emily Blunt), before the skies open and the seas boil.

Cut to several hundred days later, and what’s left of the family tiptoes through a shattered existence. Evelyn, now widowed, struggles to keep her children–including a newborn son–away from the alien onslaught, while also seeking some form of relief and rescue. Regan believes that she has found exactly that, but the journey to salvation is perilous, and they won’t be able to make it together.

Okay, another word of description and I’ll probably ruin the whole thing for you. Part II moves with propulsive fury, and the less you see coming, the more you’ll be able to live in every visceral moment. As with the first film, Krasinski presents us with likable, relatable characters and slowly builds the tension around them to a bubbling broil. By the final act, the suspense hits a scorching temperature. Krasinski does resort to a couple of jump scares, but the rest of the film is so good, it’s hard not to give him a free pass.

His work also gets elevated by the skilled lead performances. Blunt plays Evelyn as a tangle of emotions: Bottomless strength, deepening grief, and waves of anxiety. Lee’s death has only tightened her grip on her children. As the film places them in escalating danger, Evelyn’s fear becomes our own. With that said, most of this film belongs to Regan, whose bold resourcefulness helps fill the void left by Lee. Simmonds commands the screen, and a good chunk of the film’s success is due to her sturdy self-assuredness. Murphy is well-cast as a good-hearted man turned callous by heartbreak. Only Djimon Hounsou gets wasted, as an enigmatic leader of refugees.

Forget about sequels, A Quiet Place Part II is just a really good movie. Period. It delivers 97 minutes of thrilling, old-school escapism that seems to only get better as it goes along. As a bonus, it won’t make you hate how much you loved the first film. I’ll admit my initial skepticism, but count me all-in for Part III.

97 min. R.

 

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