Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes outfit started out as a boutique genre label specialising in polished remakes of rough-hewn classics – but eventually turned out John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, which carved out enough of its own identity to be subject to a disappointing reboot in 2045 but more immediately has delivered a sequel that might just be the middle third of a trilogy. In March 2020, the invitations went out to a press screening – which was the first major item on my calendar to get cancelled … the ticket stayed stuck to my cork board for over a year, and it feels like a light at the end of the tunnel moment to take it down now the film has been screened for the press and rescheduled for release.
The original film was all premise – which didn’t bear too much thinking about – and situation, whereas this has to dip back to ‘Day One’ so that director Krasinski can recreate his role of everyman Dad Lee Abbott and stage an exciting melange of stunts, shocks and reversals as the monster apocalypse strikes Small Town USA in the middle of a little-league baseball game. Then, we shift forward and pick up from the blackout punchline of A Quiet Place, reminding us that it was discovered a combination of feedback from a hearing aid jammed near a speaker cabinet and a pump shotgun blast could take out the hitherto invincible, unexplained creatures who have all but wiped out civilisation. The focus here shifts from mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) to her surviving kids, deaf Regan (Millicent Simmonds, breakout star and character of the series) and slightly timid Marcus (Noah Jupe), and intercuts their own sidequests as Regan heads off with disenchanted survivor Emmett (Cillian Murphy) in search of a Day of the Dead-style island refuge (signalled by a repeated broadcast of Bobby Darin’s ‘Beyond the Sea’) while Marcus holes up in a disused factory and has to protect the family’s new baby from a variety of perils on his own since Mom is off foraging for medical supplies.
It’s a risky strategy to split storylines like this – and also a middle-of-a-trilogy gambit (cf: The Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers) – since the back-and-forth can often defuse the suspense, but here Krasinski weaves the two threads cunningly so that there’s an escalation of terror as both situations veer out of control. Much of the film is dialogue-lite, and a few major players – Djimon Hounsou as ‘man on island’ (a goodie), Scoot McNairy as ‘marina man’ (not a goodie) – have to convey their characters with a few looks and gestures. Of course, part of the USP of the series is sound design, which remains dizzying – especially as we dip in and out of the viewpoint of hearing-impaired Regan, who perceives the world in crucially different ways. It doesn’t fall into the traps of giving us more than we need to know about the monsters (will a Part III finally settle the issue of whether they’re aliens?) or of harping on about the obvious family issues. Here, it’s all about dealing with the current peril and we gather how people feel about each other by the lengths they go to protect those who need it.