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‘A Quiet Place Part II’ is a more than worthy sequel

Hollywood comes roaring back this Memorial Day weekend with a blockbuster sequel that audiences have been salivating over for 14 months. It turns out A Quiet Place Part II is well worth the wait. AND you can only see it in theaters. Take that, pandemic!

Writer/actor/director John Krasinski pulled off a mini-miracle last time out, crafting a $340-million smash hit with a relatively miniscule $20-million budget. But the miracle wasn’t just in the financial realm. Even more impressive was its artistic success. The original Quiet Place used a sci-fi/horror context to take a serious and compelling look at a nuclear family under extreme duress. Plenty of thrills and chills, of course, but also a desperate family’s coping mechanisms on full display.

What mostly set the original apart was its ingenious conceit — an invading race of sinister aliens whose power of detection depends entirely on their hyper-sensitive hearing. Each and every sound made by its human prey could mean a swift death sentence. Krasinski has a blast heightening the stakes even further by incorporating a deaf daughter and a pregnant wife who, in the course of the movie, has to try to give birth, silently. It was a fresh and exhilarating movie-going experience; one that was always meant to be a one-off.

But the powers-that-be saw its franchise potential, so A Quiet Place now has a Part II, and a Part III is already in the works. Trilogies often dilute the power of the original but if Part II is any indication, this may be the exception that proves the rule.

After a quick and terrifying “prequel” look at how this alien invasion started, the sequel picks up exactly where the original ended, on Day 474. Having spent most of the first film sheltering in place on their upstate New York farm, the Abbott family, or what’s left of it, spends this movie trekking overland to find safer environs. Of course, the stakes remain as high as can be given that any noisy step could be their last. And the degree of difficulty keeps climbing.

Mom Evelyn Abbott, played by Emily Blunt, has to shepherd her flock — a deaf daughter, a hobbled younger son, and an infant — on a cross-country journey on foot, armed with nothing more than a shotgun, an oxygen tank, a loudspeaker, and her own wits. Life doesn’t get much easier when they run into a demoralized and untrustworthy neighbor played by Cillian Murphy.

The suspense never lets up. In fact, Krasinski even ratchets up the suspense from time to time with parallel action sequences. For example, at a crucial point in the movie, the deaf girl is on one dangerous mission, the mom is on another, and the boy is on a third. In a bravura display of editing, all three actions culminate in a perfectly timed crescendo of terror and fright. It’s showy, but effective.

Compared to the first film, this sequel is more of a straight thriller, with more extended and elaborate action set-pieces.

Understandably, less time is spent on figuring out how and why the aliens operate the way they do. The aliens, this time out, are less a mystery to solve than a threat to escape from. That makes for an overall less profound film, perhaps, but a no less exciting one. If I have a quibble with the movie, it’s its use of a particular pop song as some kind of signal. Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” seems an awfully oblique way to send a message. It’s either too cute or too clever by half. But that’s a rare screenwriting misstep in an otherwise solid story.

A Quiet Place Part II is a more than worthy sequel. One can only hope a third and final film will uphold the standards of its excellent predecessors.

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