Sequels often go big. The assumption is that a bigger location, bigger cast, and bigger plot are the key ingredients for a sequel. John Krasinki's A Quiet Place Part II largely follows this mantra. It expands on the world of the first film, it adds a new central character and introduces a town's worth of extras, and it features a bigger plot that more clearly sets up the third chapter. What does this mean for the sequel to the $340 million dollar hit?
Well, luckily it mostly means you get a thrill-ride that retains much of what worked in the original. Sure, this sequel dilutes some of the tension in favor of a more action-oriented film but that doesn't mean it isn't very much a continuation of the original. In fact, it picks up literally on the final frame of the first film. If you remember, A Quiet Place ended with Emily Blunt's Evelyn Abbot pumping her shotgun. It is a clever move on writer and director Kraskinki's part to avoid the temptation to jump forward in time and instead follow the immediate aftermath of Evelyn and Regan(Millicent Simmonds) figuring out the alien creature's weakness.
The film actually opens with a stunning flashback to the first day the aliens landed and began attacking the town the Abbot's live in. The scene shows off Krasinki's knack for tension-filled action. If the first film had a more locked-in location feel similar to Alien then this opening scene announces that the sequel is more action-interested, think Aliens. This opening scene also sets up the new character, Emmett(Cillian Murphy), who is an old friend of the Abbots who turns up later in the film to help Evelyn and her children.
Murphy is a great addition. He is a skilled actor who can sell fear as well as he can sell humanity. Emmett is a man who has given up on humanity. He feels no one is worth saving and so he lives alone, survives alone. Regan plays a key role in changing his mind throughout the course of the film. Murphy is great as portraying this change in a way that feels natural and believable.
Simmonds as Regan is given more to do this time around and the young actress rises to the occasion. Noah Jupe as Marcus, her brother, also shines. These two actors are so good at selling fear that you cannot help but worry about them for the full runtime of the film. Krasinki doesn't develop Marcus all that much but he does with Regan, adding complexity to her in the wake of her father's death.
If the first film was about the lengths parents go to in order to protect their children then A Quiet Place Part II is about seeing those kids grow up enough to be on their own. While the first film was uncynical about the power of familial love, this film separates the Abbots for too much of the runtime. It hurts the emotional pull of the film at times. In its place are the usual post-apocalyptic evildoers. The wretched humans aren't given enough time to be explored in an interesting way and they come off as more cliche than I think Krasinski intended. Nevertheless, the scene they are in is incredibly tense.
At the end of the day, that is really what A Quiet Place Part II succeeds at. Krasinski stages three incredible sequences in the film that will have you barely breathing. He pushes himself here as an action director in ways that pay off. The sequel is admirable and fun even if the emotional impact is missing.