After staving off the challenge of Bird Box for the 2018 award for ‘best movie about a family dealing with monsters’ (we won’t even discuss The Silence here), A Quiet Place has been promoted into franchise territory.
After his film was heralded for being a brilliant, but rare standalone property, John Krasinski now faces the challenge of taking the characters he helped create (along with writing team Bryan Woods and Scott Beck) and open them up to a larger world.
It’s a big challenge. A Quiet Place seemed to have found a natural resolution when the surviving members of the Abbott family discovered a weapon with which to defeat the monsters. Still, it’s one thing to find a weapon, but another thing entirely to know how to use it.
The sequel’s opening sequence introduces the audience to the arrival of the all-hearing monsters, with Krasinksi the director (as opposed to Krasinski the actor, who cameos in the opening ten minutes) at his best, weaving strands of a story together against a backdrop of unease, leading to shock and carnage.
It’s a sequence we’ve seen before in Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds arrival, or Bird Box’s suicidal road rage. Yet here it’s as much about character as it is exposition, with Krasinski showing as much flair visually as he does in his efficiency of storytelling.
We then fast forward to meet the Abbotts immediately after the events of the first movie. Dead monsters lie strewn around the farmhouse, the barn is on fire and the house is flooding. Evelyn knows it’s time to move on, so she packs up the baby and sets off with her kids, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe), to find the nearest neighbour.
Those who sat through The Walking Dead for long enough may think they know what to expect from such a post-apocalyptic journey, particularly when they happen upon the broken and weary Emmett (Cillian Murphy). But the obvious character twists mostly won’t arrive, which is very much to the movie’s credit.
Krasinski, serving as sole writer this time, eschews the obvious, and instead finds a relatively straight-forward plot to drive the characters into, challenging his cast, and himself as director, to make something compelling out of it.
And Krasinski absolutely does. His confidence with the camera is what gives the likes of Blunt, Simmonds and Jupe a platform to be outstanding on. Patience is the director’s signature, and perfectly suited it is for a story about characters who, for the most part, can’t run, shoot or scream.
Employing long takes and a hugely effective sound mix, Krasinski finds ways to get the viewer into the shoes of the characters, as if his challenge was to force the audience to hold their collective breath, so as not to give the characters away when the monsters come calling. Editor Michael P. Shawver deserves a great deal of credit for this, and for weaving concurrent storylines into a crescendo, the sort that would make Christopher Nolan feel a little jealous.
Emily Blunt is the lynchpin of this movie, yet it’s not really her story. Rather, the heavy lifting comes from Simmonds as the deaf daughter, whose drive to do more than merely survive gives the story a purpose.
Like Blunt, Cillian Murphy seems happy to let the younger cast members take centre stage. It’s hard not to consider Murphy’s own big break – the similarly themed 28 Days Later, a franchise he chose not to return to for an inferior (but decent) sequel.
This time, he’s taking part in a movie that is a worthy companion to its predecessor, a film that doesn’t attempt to be bigger and better, but works on making more of the same. The only criticism is that, this time, Krasinski knows there’s almost certainly more to come, leaving threads dangling as the lights go up.
It would be of little surprise if Paramount decide to expand upon the world Krasinski has created, but as the rival films have shown (we only want to hint at The Silence, not talk about it) it’s not the monster concept that makes this franchise appealing, it’s the people who make it.