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The people that are left, what they’ve become. You don’t know, do you? Well, I do.

Movie

A Quiet Place Part II
(2021)

 

Any post-apocalyptic movie released in the current environment immediately lends itself to the charge of predictive programming, of preparing the ground for the big event (invariably because it was made just prior to the big event). More so than ever, apocalypse movies are now. John Krasinski has naturally claimed of A Quiet Place, “my whole metaphor was solely about parenthood”. Which is a relief, as it makes it all very straightforward and nothing at all to concern oneself over. And given how generic the sequel is, doubling down on the original’s plot holes and hopeful/hopeless humanity themes, I could almost believe he’s being genuine.

Krasinski is, after all, making a movie about a genuine family, not the artificial surrogate appropriation of the word preferred amongst Hollywood fare (Fast and Furious, most obviously, but a slew of them generally, the most recent being Cruella). That would suggest he has conservative leanings, at least in Hollywood terms (which means he’s still probably a relative lefty). Added to which, he’s starred in both 13 Hours and Jack Ryan. Which might encourage a boost of the reading on the picture(s) favoured by Richard Brody (“these characters are a metaphorical silent—white—majority, one that doesn’t dare to speak freely for fear of being heard by the super-sensitive ears of the dark other”) and Jeffrey Wells (“All you have to do is change “don’t make a sound” to “don’t make the wrong sound” or more precisely “don’t say the wrong thing.” Then it all fits. The big brown monsters are fanatical wokesters who rush in like the wind and destroy your life and livelihood if you mutter the wrong phrase or use incorrect terminology…”)

It’s as legitimate a reading as any, although as Brody is doing, it’s claiming a lack (persons of colour) to be messaging in itself. Which is, of course, what any MSM commentary worth its salt right now is inevitably going to do. The core problem with this line of interrogation, as with any intimation of woke-ageddon, is that it gets hung up on the thing itself – wholly intentional, as division is the point in any Hegelian construct – rather than its ultimate purpose and symptomatic cause. So it becomes a left-right thing, in the process forgetting that this is a post-apocalyptic movie, reflecting that the whole endeavour that encompasses “woke” is in the service of realising a post-apocalyptic (or shall we say a reset) society. The biggest surprise with A Quiet Place Part II is that the principal adults are allowed to remain standing, and even a surrogate father is introduced (albeit, one who testifies to the superiority of the surrogate daughter).

Clinging to his story, Krasinski claimed the sequel was “about growing up and dealing with loss”, while wifey chipped in with “How far would you go to extend your hand to your neighbour?” Presumably, any extension of a hand would depend on whether the attached arm had been jabbed first. How about, as an alternate metaphor for A Quiet Place: Don’t say anything while the Elite – “Death Angels” is an appropriately grim, religiously marbled term – wipe out everyone you know, or you may attract undue attention and imperil yourself? And even if you survive for a while, you’re doomed eventually, for your fellow man (the inoculated and toxic) will turn on you.

The idea of humanity itself as the biggest threat is touched upon here, and was obviously The Walking Dead’s abiding theme. As Emmett (Cillian Murphy), alone and jaundiced, advises “The people that are left, what they’ve become. You don’t know, do you? Well, I do”. This is evidenced when he and Regan (Millicent Simmonds) are attacked at a marina (luckily, the “feral” humans are about to get double jabbed). It appears that it’s family – actual family – that keeps one sane and surviving, and to stress the humanity, we meet Djimon Hounsou – see, not everyone’s white! Oh, wait. Oops, they’ve just killed Djimon – and his island haven. This one is breached even more quickly than per your average Walking Dead fleeting respite, however, thanks to some Aliens-esque hitchhiking.

Krasinski’s cop pal Okieriete Onoaodowan also gets offed in the opening twelve-minute flashback, which offers an insight into how it all started. It’s Cloverfield all over again. This unfortunately serves to emphasise that, as writer, Krasiniski has no idea how to advance the already fallacious storyline (the original writers claimed to have opted out, considering a sequel undesirable. That doesn’t, of course, mean they were asked). And immediately, one is left wondering things. Such as how everyone off the bat seems to know they shouldn’t be making any sound when the Death Angels are around. (Emphasising this is an extra-terrestrial threat, an apocalypse from above – more predictive programming – when Krasinski walks past some model space shuttles, of the sort the doomed Beau enjoyed playing with, in the convenience store just prior to checking out the news of… something alarming).

A Quiet Place Part II’s great virtue is its writer-director formulating potent suspense sequences. Its great demerit is doing so at the expense of plot and character coherence. Despite the promising conclusion to the original, he’s continually required to find reasons not to go on a wholesale Death Angels sonic slaughterfest. Rather, he opts for your classic formula of separating the heroes, and injuring (Noah Jupe’s Marcus) or imperilling them (Emmet and Regan). Emmett barely perks up at all when shown a sure-fire means of disposing of the beasts, and he certainly isn’t engaged enough to think about replicating the equipment. Regan, so convinced she’s correct that Beyond the Sea means a nearby island – she’s right – is willing to leave her mother, brother and baby sister without that sure-fire means of disposing of the beasts as she sets off on her own. Evelyn (Emily Blunt) goes off to get meds for Marcus, leaving her baby, a choice sidestepping any Sophie would have made, because it isn’t that kind of movie.

Kraninski sets up several tri-pronged suspense sequences: dock, son, Emily, and later, the transmission of the frequency being used by both Regan and Marcus). The latter manages to undermix the sonic discomfort, such that you’re wondering why the creatures are remotely bothered. It also comes across as a discordantly triumphant “When kids learn to kill, it’s a thing to celebrate!” It’s possible too, such is the emphasis on Regan’s hearing aid as a tool of salvation, that A Quiet Place franchise might be interpreted as a transhumanist promotional text. It’s either that or anti-woke. Take your pick.

Performances are all solid, with Blunt very definitely taking a step back from the spotlight in favour of Simmonds, but it’s Murphy who registers most strongly. It helps that he’s got those penetrating eyes, so good for looking haunted.

The most impressive thing about A Quiet Place Part II is that its box office wasn’t that far below the original’s, despite the decimation of cinemagoing and the (entirely justified) criticisms of the first outing’s premise. Obviously, most didn’t care. Plus, Krasinski has proved himself a more than competent suspense director. And who knows, perhaps the survivalist theme had a certain appeal, distanced enough in antagonist not to be too off-putting to the imperilled masses. Apparently, Krasinski has an idea for the third. Which will be impressive, as he evidently didn’t have one worth mentioning for the second. And Jeff Nichols is making a spinoff? I guess it couldn’t be more underwhelming than his last stab at SF (Midnight Special).

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