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The opening of A Quiet Place Part 2 includes an image that can only be effective on the big screen. Emily Blunt is driving in reverse to avoid a wild semi-trailer truck that barrels toward her, and an additional, horrifying surprise follows. That shot—overwhelming, exaggerated, suspenseful—is as clear an indication as any that “movies,” the kind that make you spill your popcorn with a shriek, are back. Director John Krasinski’s sequel to his 2018 horror/thriller film A Quiet Place is effective in the same exact way as that scene: It uses shrewd editing and sound design to create a sense of aching anticipation, followed by a release of tension that is either brutal or cathartic. The formula barely changes, even with the expanded canvas of characters and situations, but there’s no need for change when it works so well in the first place.
The long prologue is a flashback. We watch the Abbott family, led by Evelyn (Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski), on the day the creatures—the aliens that require the family to be quiet, let they get eaten—invade. You may recall that these creatures are large, powerful, and fast, but their defining characteristic is they hate any noise whatsoever. This sequence is a refresher on the story and its surrounding atmosphere. It also reminds you who the Abbotts are missing, because the first film ended with Lee sacrificing himself. Part 2 then jumps ahead to the immediate aftermath of the first film.
Left with nowhere to go, Evelyn and her three children walk toward someplace where they might get help. This is where they run into Emmett (Cillian Murphy), Lee’s friend from the “before time.” His character is a shrewd way to broaden the scope of this milieu, and he serves as a foil for Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who has an idea about how to weaponize her hearing aid in a large-scale attack. This is all, of course, a pretext for dangerous situations where the Abbotts and Emmett must stay as silent as they can to avoid detection.
Krasinski’s style is ruthless and direct. He shows some decaying place his characters are walking through, whether it’s a pharmacy or a radio station, and gets the viewer thinking about all the things that can go wrong. Then he finds other, more creative ways for the situation to actually go wrong. Simple edits and predictable jump scares are a nice way to escalate and loosen the tension, which is more or less constant, but Krasinski knows the right focal points. Put another way, he easily manipulates his audience, and our willingness to be manipulated is directly proportional to the suspense we feel.
The simple, straightforward compositions are another key element to the film’s success. There is little dialogue in this film—maybe just a couple pages—so the actors must convey a lot through their eyes. Like Spielberg, Krasinski pushes his camera on faces to tell us exactly what we should feel. Most of the time that feeling is panic, although developments in the latter half of the film allow for other emotions you might not anticipate. All the actors are effective, although the younger ones steal the show, since their characters have no choice but to bear responsibilities beyond their years. Nearly every character has a clean narrative arc, but none lands harder than that of Evelyn’s son Marcus (Noah Jupe), who spends most of the time protecting an infant from death.
If A Quiet Place is about the importance of family, then its sequel is more about community. Each interaction with a new character carries baggage, in part because characters have to be careful about who they can trust. And since we seem to be coming out of the pandemic, there is added resonance in watching characters who want to believe in the future, yet are too shaken by recent trauma to get there. A Quiet Place Part 2 is an intense experience for those who have missed going to the movies, and not just because of the immediacy of a huge screen and pulverizing speakers. Like the first film, Krasinski ends his thriller on a hard-earned note of hope. That stings a little more nowadays, albeit in a way that genre fans can welcome.
A Quiet Place opens on May 28 in area theaters.