Fourth films often present a unique challenge for up-and-coming filmmakers. Following the path of Spielberg and Shyamalan before him, John Krasinski had the struggle of following his third film, a huge success, with an equally brilliant fourth. Like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Unbreakable” before it, “A Quiet Place Part II” does not disappoint.
From the film’s opening, the viewer immediately knows they are in good hands. Pay close attention to how Krasinski and his new director of photography, Polly Morgan, teach you how to watch the film. A tracking shot sets up the path of a thrilling set piece immediately before it happens. This focuses the audience on understanding the geography of every scene. Another trick used here is placing important elements in the background, just out of focus. This makes the viewer constantly active, searching every inch of the screen for the monsters. Now that we’ve seen these creatures in the light and know they can be killed, the cinematography has to give them power. It’s simple, brilliant filmmaking. Finally, a cut from the end of the opening to a new moment recontextualizes everything we’ve seen.
The opening also reminds old viewers of the characters and renews their interest in a new story. Just moments after the events of “A Quiet Place,” the Abbott family must leave their home in search of other survivors. The constantly hunting sound-sensitive creatures present as difficult a challenge as ever. New viewers won’t feel lost as the first movie’s elements are explained enough that the film stands alone.
Fear, loss, relief, hope. Fear, loss, relief, hope. Over and over these emotional beats play out, but they never get repetitive due to the film’s short ninety-seven-minute runtime. The only issue with this style of emotional rollercoaster is that some of the performances start to lack variety. Emily Blunt as Evelyn is forced to cycle through a few basic expressions that start to feel bland. Cillian Murphy has a magnetic charm in this film, but his character, Emmett, only has one mode to play in the movie.
With those criticisms out of the way, both major child performances are great. Millicent Simmonds as the deaf Regan blesses the audience with a movie star performance by playing off the hope in the film rather than solely focusing on fear. Noah Jupe, who barely registers in the first film as Marcus, comes back swinging for the fences by having his character go from most to least afraid as the film goes on.
However, the real star is Krasinski’s direction and writing. I applaud his restraint when it comes to heavy-handed exposition. When he can show us something rather than tell it, he always chooses the former. For example, there are several set pieces involving an enclosed space in which characters can only stay for a few minutes before the air runs out. This is never directly explained aloud (or signed) in the film. Instead, a character sets a timer on their watch that goes off after about a minute and then opens the door. Nobody talks about it; the script trusts its audience to understand.
The editing is also in service of the story in a huge way. Many of the big cuts in the movie, whether flashy or subtle, convey additional information. Look out for a beautiful transition after the action sequence by the water. But the editing doesn’t only help when transitioning. At two different points in the film, multiple set pieces are going at the same time. While not every cut is perfect, bouncing between the scenes allows Krasinski a greater control of the audience’s emotions. Fear, Loss, Relief, Hope.
Go see this movie. Find the biggest screen in your area, with the greatest sound quality you can find. Support your local theater and ready yourself for the successful directing career of John Krasinski. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.