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'A Quiet Place Part II' review: Alien thriller sequel feels familiar in a pandemic

Sabrina LeBoeuf
Austin 360
Evelyn (played by Emily Blunt) braves the unknown in "A Quiet Place Part II."

When I went to see “A Quiet Place Part II” in theaters, I thought I had finally found a temporary escape from pandemic life. For so long, I have been looking for a quiet place to watch a movie, free of internet lags and roommates talking in the background. With my phone turned off, I could take a breather from endless news notifications.

But alas, things didn't feel so different.

Even though the film was finished before COVID-19 death tolls and anxiety were our daily reality — "A Quiet Place Part II" premiered in New York City on March 8, 2020, days before nationwide shutdowns — I proceeded to watch an entire film that felt like it was about the pandemic, just disguised as an alien thriller sequel.

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And while the resemblance between the real pandemic and the film's alien apocalypse is coincidental, watching the movie more than a year after its planned release holds deeper meaning after everything we have collectively experienced. "A Quiet Place Part II" is in theaters on Friday.

(Some spoilers for the first film follow.)

The sequel, with John Krasinski again in the director chair, picks up where its predecessor left off, after a brief flashback to life before the aliens arrived and the first day of the invasion. From Day 1, you get to see pre-apocalyptic life where people put on nice clothes, attend their kid’s baseball game and hug family friends. With the touchdown of lethal aliens — they're blind and drawn to their prey by sound — families split off into their individual units and attempt to fend for themselves.

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Millicent Simmonds, from left, Emily Blunt and Noah Jupe are a family fighting to survive, and stay silent, in "A Quiet Place Part II."

Flash forward to Day 474 (just a few more days longer than it's been since the World Health Organization declared the spread of coronavirus to be a pandemic), we see how much has changed since that fateful day. No one brushes their hair or wears shoes anymore, and everyone looks scared to go outside. Sound familiar? 

With Krasinski’s character from the first installment out of the picture (R.I.P.), the audience meets Cillian Murphy, playing a new pseudo-father figure named Emmett. He and the returning "Quiet Place" family of Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and a newborn baby attempt to find other survivors, as well as stay survivors themselves. To up the ante for Round 2, the cast of characters takes on new settings, including overgrown paths and an abandoned warehouse filled with metal and all things that clang. 

Like the first movie, the sound effects play with subjectivity, and even the quietest sounds are of the highest quality. In some of Simmonds' scenes — her character is deaf, as is the actress — the audio shifts into her point of view, filled with silence that transports viewers into an always quiet world. As the family walks through tall grass and into their new metallic home, the slightest sounds of crunching plants beneath their feet and the brush of their supplies against hollowed pipes add to the suspense and help bring viewers to the edge of their seats.  

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Murphy takes on a new look in this film. The Irish actor puts on a standard American accent, with a scruffy beard and arm tattoo to match. He hides the desperation and grief of a person transformed by destruction and heartache. His skilled performance proves Murphy’s ability to bring to life a character who's relatable, especially in hard times like these.  

The only real annoyances in “A Quiet Place Part II” can be found in plenty of other thrillers. For starters, people make stupid decisions. Whether it’s attempting to go it alone or not watching their step, characters consistently get themselves into trouble, adding onto other near-death experiences they have no control over.

Additionally, the apocalyptic sets feel obviously staged: things like empty, posed cars with their doors all open the same amount, and pairs of shoes somehow left untarnished and standing upright. Luckily, this doesn’t take away from the overall thrill of the quest for survival. You just can’t walk into this movie expecting an award-winning story.

The one thing you do need to mentally prepare for, though, are flashbacks to the long, lonely days we've all faced since last year.

'A Quiet Place Part II'

Grade: B+

Starring: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy

Director: John Krasinski

Rated: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Running time: PG-13 for terror, bloody/disturbing images and violence

Watch: In theaters on Friday