If you had told me, ten years ago, that John Krasinski was destined to go from starring in The Office to being an action star, I would have thought you were crazy.
“John Krasinsi’s going to grow a beard and base his acting career around playing soldiers and CIA analysts? No way! He will always be Jim Halpert,” I would have said, “He smirks at the camera and has an adorable relationship with Pam!”
Of course, I was wrong. After The Office ended, John Krasinki went on to play Jack Ryan for Prime and to star in movies like 13 Hours. And yet, as unexpected as that development may have been, what was even more unexpected was that Krasinski would also direct one of the best horror films of the past five years, 2018’s A Quiet Place. Telling the story of a family trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world in which the Earth has been invaded by aliens who hunt by sound, A Quiet Place was intense, atmospheric, frightening, and actually rather touching. Though the plot itself may have been a bit familiar (because, seriously, how many movies have there been recently about insect-like aliens destroying civilization?) but Krasinski showed true skill as a director, getting heart-breaking performances out of a cast that included himself and his wife, Emily Blunt.
A Quiet Place was such a success that it was was inevitable that it would be followed by a sequel. Though its original release was delayed by the pandemic, A Quiet Place Part II was finally released in May of this year and it became one of the first successful films of 2021. John Krasinki even taped a special greeting for those who saw the film when it was first released, welcoming them back to the theaters. That really is the most John Krasinski thing imaginable.
As for A Quiet Place Part II, it’s actually two films in one. The first part of the film serves as a prequel, showing us the initial attack and following Lee (John Krasinski) and his family as they flee for safety while the aliens decimate their hometown. It’s an exciting sequence, even if one gets the feeling that it was largely included so that Krasinski could make an appearance despite his character having been killed off during the first film. After the flashback, A Quiet Place Part II picks up where the first film ended. Lee is dead and his widow, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), does everything she can to protect her surviving children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and her newborn baby. Though Regan has figured out that the aliens are themselves vulnerable to sound (specifically, a high-pitched tone), that doesn’t make the aliens themselves any less dangerous. After eventually meeting up with Emmett (Cillian Murphy), an embittered friend from the old days, Evelyn and her family search for other survivors.
A Quiet Place Part II is a simple but efficient thriller, one that recaptures all of the first film’s strengths without making the mistake of adding any new weaknesses. Much like the first film, it’s dominated by suspenseful scenes of survivors trying to make their way through the wilderness without so much as stepping on a twig. As anyone who has ever tried to sneak into their house after being out later than they were supposed to can tell you, walking without making a sound is not as easy as it seems. One of the film’s most harrowing scenes features a character getting his foot caught in a bear trap and his family struggling to free him while also trying to keep him from screaming out in pain.
Wisely, the film resists the temptation to tell us too much about the aliens. All we really know about them is that they hunt by sound and they kill anything they pounce on. And really, that’s all we need to know. At a time when far too many film franchises end up drowning in their own overly complicated mythology, the Quiet Place films keep it simple. The aliens hunt and they kill and they’re frightening specifically because there is no way to understand their motivations. They’re pure chaos, a reminder that our lives are not ruled by rhyme and reason. The aliens, like all existential threats, don’t care that the Earth is inhabited by families or people who have tried to create a safe life for themselves. They exist only to destroy.
It can be argued that A Quiet Place Part II tells essentially the same story as A Quiet Place, with Cillian Murphy’s Emmett replacing Lee. That’s a legitimate point but then again, it could also be argued that a part of the film’s strength is that it doesn’t attempt to complicate things. The aliens are going to remain just as frightening the second time Evelyn and her family flees from them as the first time. Clocking in at a brisk 97 minutes, there’s not a wasted moment or a trace of filler to be found in A Quiet Place Part II. Featuring an excellent turn from the awesome Emily Blunt and good performances from Simmonds and Murphy, A Quiet Place Part II is a sequel that’s worthy of the film that came before it.